There is no doubt that virtually everyone has been affected in some way by the Coronavirus. Millions of people have become ill, lost their jobs, and some have lost their lives. If you are going through or have gone through a divorce and you have court-ordered child support payments, you may think that losing your job or becoming ill and quarantined excuses you from meeting your obligation. This assumption is very wrong.
What can you do?
The first thing you should do is contact your attorney. Have them file a petition to modify or terminate your child support payments temporarily. It is very rare for the courts to terminate your child support payments.
Taking care of your children is always the top priority. If you are laid off or your company has shut down, the court assumes you will receive unemployment insurance. While this will not be as much as your salary, it is considered part of your income when the judge makes the adjustment on your payment. Further, the court understands that you are shocked at the loss of your job. However, they assume that you can take some kind of a job which will pay at least minimum wage and allow you to work 40-hours per week. Based on that assumption, they will often adjust your child support obligation according to that assumption.
During the pandemic, Congress is protecting people from being evicted when your rent or house payments get behind. Unemployment is passing on stimulus payments as they come in. The government is helping people with food assistance. Many places are not turning off electricity or water for customers who cannot pay during the crisis.
It may become necessary to select what you will and will not be able to pay. Child-support is a priority. Bills that you are temporarily protected from paying should be the ones pushed to the back-burner. Until you have gotten your court order revised, do everything in your power to keep your payments current.
Many people believe the $1200 stimulus payments are not part of their income and they do not have to pay their back-child support from them. This is incorrect. If you are behind in your payments, the IRS can and usually will take your stimulus check, just as they would take any tax refunds, and send it to your ex-spouse to help catch you up. If you do not owe the entire $1200, you will get a reduced check and it probably will take a while.
Do I have to tell my ex that I lost my job?
Regardless of why or how you have lost your job, you need to report it to your child support agency within 10-days. You will probably have to go back to court to have your payments adjusted, so it is a good idea to contact your attorney.
Your divorce papers will tell you if you are ordered to advise your ex-spouse if you have had a change in employment. If it is not in your papers then you don’t have to tell them. However, it is always a good idea to keep a good relationship with the other parent of your children. Being civil and respectful of each other will make it much easier to face these problems. If that is not possible, speak to your attorney and make your decision accordingly.
You are not alone. COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of millions of people all over the world.
It is a stressful time and families are making hard choices. Everyone is experiencing the same issues. We are all watching our money closely, being less wasteful, and making special arrangements for the education and care of our children. The best way to survive this difficult time is to work together, We do not know how long this will go on. We do not know what challenges lie ahead. But, we know there is more to come. Now is the time to remember that we all want the same thing. We want strong families with healthy and happy children. It will take more than a pandemic to stop us. Because our kids are worth the battle.