Enforcing Child Support During a Pandemic

Today we are living in a world that just a few weeks to a month or two ago, most of us never would have imagined. As we face our new reality, we rush to put systems in place that will allow us a semblance of normalcy and keep us closer to our routines and order from before. For parents who rely on child support payments from their former partners, there is a big question looming: How will coronavirus impact child support? While things are still somewhat up in the air and some particularities may depend on how long our present situation lasts, we are doing our best to answer this question.

Your former spouse may not be able to afford to pay you.

Across the nation, people are being laid off, furloughed or businesses are closing altogether. Whether it’s because they closely interacted with the public in their job and can no longer work due to shelter-in-place orders or because their company decided to make cuts to deal with the dip in the economy, the financial repercussions of job loss mean that a lot of people who owe child support may be struggling to pay it. If your former partner, like so many, has suffered from a layoff, he or she may not currently be able to pay you the money you are owed.

Temporary cessation of support during the lockdown.

The obligor may be able to get payments held in abeyance for a period of time, but the support will still be due once they are able to return to work.  For example, the Department of Revenue or Circuit Court may be amenable to allow stopping the collection of payments until the obligor is able to return to work.  This temporary abatement may be available for persons who lost their employment, have been furloughed or are unable to work due to illness related to the COVID-19 crisis.  However, those unpaid months will be due at a future date and time and may be added to the end of the support term, and any amounts received from Unemployment Compensation or Reemployment Assistance will be considered as income for child support purposes.  In short, child support is still due and payable until otherwise modified, abated or downward deviation is awarded by the Court.

If continued nonpayment occurs, you can take the obligor to court, but your relief may be delayed.

Family courts are closed to prevent the spread of the outbreak. Fortunately, there is some limited form of relief in South Florida that may be gained if you are lucky enough to get a virtual or video hearing before a Judge or Hearing Officer on your child support matter. As we are all adapting to our new reality, hearings are going forward, and matters are resolved as soon as a video hearing can be coordinated with all concerned parties. As we look forward to a new normal in light of the pandemic, rest assured that all is not lost as you seek your remedy for nonpayment of support.

If you are struggling with these issues or have questions about what you can do — whether you’re a parent who is currently unable to pay child support or one who relies on payments to care for your children, the experienced team at McKINNON LEGAL can help you navigate these uncertain times.

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