How COVID-19 Is Impacting Child Support and Alimony Orders
This year, the spread of COVID-19 brought most areas of everyday life to a screeching halt. With more than 45 million Americans filing for unemployment at the beginning of state-ordered shutdowns from mid-March to early April, most households have experienced a change in their employment and, possibly, their finances. Changing finances can affect the households of divorced couples and parents who have informal or court-ordered financial support arrangements in place.
How Covid-19 Is Affecting Spousal and Child Support
Recent spikes in unemployment have caused many people’s incomes to decrease rapidly and unexpectedly. For custodial parents and recently divorced individuals, a sudden reduction in their household income makes child support and alimony payments even more critical for maintaining their lifestyles. At the same time, parents and former spouses who are required to make maintenance payments may find themselves struggling to meet their financial obligations. As a result, both sides are more likely to find themselves seeking legal recourse.
Impacts on Child Custody Arrangements and Visitation
COVID-19’s effects extend beyond financial support orders. People who have court-ordered visitation agreements may be unable to follow their regular schedules due to travel restrictions and health advisories. Parents who typically meet their children in public settings during visits or to exchange custody may find it challenging to find a mutually convenient, safe setting in which they can have visits or pick up their children. In addition to parents facing logistical challenges, courts and administrative agencies must also develop solutions to compliance-related questions.
What Can Custodial Parents and Formerly Dependent Spouses Do?
Every case is different. Therefore, parents who have custody of their children and individuals who receive spousal support should immediately notify their attorneys if COVID-19 is disrupting their child support or alimony payments. In cases in which both adults can communicate civilly, both parties may be able to work out temporary arrangements and abide by them for as long as the pandemic impacts their original agreement. Parties that can agree to modify their agreement should contact their respective lawyers and put the new terms in writing.
What Can Noncustodial Parents and Former Spouses Who Pay Alimony Do?
Parents and individuals who are ordered to make support payments to their former spouses and/or their children may get a reprieve by requesting a modification. If the paying party is unable to agree with the receiving party to temporarily amend the current support order’s terms, the paying party may unilaterally seek a modification in court by filing a motion. To file the motion, the party who wishes to seek a modification should contact a divorce lawyer or, if the parties were never married, a family law attorney who specializes in child custody cases.
Jurisdictional Changes Due to COVID-19
Several jurisdictions across the U.S. are making adjustments to their standard procedures due to the impact of coronavirus. Courts are closed due to social distancing orders. In many cities and states, administrative staff members work remotely and may have modified office hours. Court closures and staffing limitations have led to delays in hearing schedules, and court access may be much more limited than under ordinary circumstances. The responses from different states have been mixed. In some states, courts may be shut down completely, which may result in compounding debt for noncustodial parents who have recently lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19 on business operations.
Legal Advice for Support Orders Affected by COVID-19
Whether you have been ordered to make maintenance payments to a spouse or support payments for a child or if you are the court-ordered recipient of support payments, the first step toward seeking legal remedy to challenges presented by COVID-19 is to contact a divorce lawyer. Your attorney will know about the latest updates on how your jurisdiction is currently processing cases that involve support orders. Our Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, divorce lawyer can help you navigate even the most contentious situations while protecting your rights. Call us today at (215) 886-1266 for a case evaluation.