Child Support: Paying and Receiving When the Economy is Suffering
By Theresa Lorella, Senior Attorney at McKinley Irvin
Without a doubt, this is a hard time economically for everyone. Those who are able to work may be facing cuts, loss of benefits, or the anxiety of worrying about the sustainability of their job if this lasts for months into the future. Others are spending whole days trying to obtain the federal and state benefits they may be entitled to as relief. If you are the person paying child support, you are worrying about your ability to do so; if you are the person receiving support, you may be needing that support more than ever. While delays at the court might make it difficult to get immediate relief, attorneys can work together or with alternate dispute resolution to come up with a solution that addresses the specific issues of your case.
You can’t pay
If you have less income, or none at all, you may not be able to make your current support payment. However, you are still obligated to pay your court-ordered support. Your ability to seek to relief through the court will be determined by the current emergency response situation and if your case is deemed to be emergent enough to move forward. For most cases, child support is still not necessarily a first priority with the courts as they deal with emergencies. Stay current with your court-ordered obligations. While you are doing that, collect and maintain all documentation of your change in employment circumstances. If you qualify, make sure you are applying for any form of government related relief possible—it’s likely that a judge will want to know if you did everything you could to mitigate the situation.
You aren’t receiving your court-ordered support
Unfortunately, the primary issue for the receiving parent remains the state or court’s current capability to hear any cases that aren’t considered an emergency. The issue is simply the capacity of the courts to help under current COVID restrictions. If you are in the position of not receiving the support you need for your children, be sure to keep track of all of the funds that are past due and any and all receipts or other documentation you can gather to show amounts due under your current order. You will likely use that information once the courts open in some form of contempt or enforcement action to recover past due support.
Negotiation and Alternate Dispute Resolution
Child support is an area of family law that is seeing more use of direct negotiation and use of alternate dispute resolution resources such as mediation and arbitration. Attorneys are able to help craft solutions that speak not only to their client’s particular needs, but to the objective issues present. A general example would be an agreement where the parties acknowledge the temporary nature of this economic emergency, review their current finances, allow for a new, temporary monthly payment and adjustments for current child care and other expenses, and to create a jointly agreed path forward to move back into the current order and pay any arrears as able. Of course, any agreement should be looking not only to the parents’ economic status and ability to receive COVID-related benefits, but towards making sure there is as little as possible economic detriment to the children involved.
For some people, the concept of negotiating temporary child support issues will seem relatively straightforward. For others, it may be more difficult due to the level of conflict in their case. For either, attorneys can help determine how much facilitation their clients may need, whether a mediator or arbitrator can be of use and, importantly, help to capture any agreements or arbitration decisions correctly and in a manner that addresses all of the many technical nuances of current and back child support. Contact McKinley Irvin to speak to an attorney about your case.