In mid-March, the coronavirus (COVID-19) had become such a threat that President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. In an effort to stop the spread of the virus, non-essential businesses were directed to shut down, schools closed, and concerts and events were canceled. As a result of the pandemic, millions of Americans lost their jobs and many small businesses folded because they lost so much business.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In April, the unemployment rate increased by 10.3 percentage points to 14.7 percent. This is the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series (seasonally adjusted data are available back to January 1948). The number of unemployed persons rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million in April. The sharp increases in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it.”
COVID-19 Leading to Child Support Arrears
Clearly, COVID-19 has changed things dramatically and it’s had a profound impact on the American economy. In fact, the effects have been so wide-reaching, that they’ve spread to family law matters, including domestic violence, child custody, visitation, and child support. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on the virus’s impact on child support matters.
If you’re a noncustodial parent who pays child support and you’ve recently lost your job or your income has otherwise been reduced due to COVID-19, you may find yourself falling behind on your child support payments for the first time.
You Can't Fall Behind on Child Support
Can you expect the local child support agency to give you a break the way mortgage lenders and credit card companies have been helping relieve consumers? No, you can’t, and to assume they’d halt, suspend, or delay your payments as a “favor” would be a mistake.
If you fall behind on your child support, you face a host of negative repercussions, such as driver’s license suspension, hunting and fishing license suspensions, the denial of a U.S. passport, bank account seizures, real estate liens, and tax refund intercept. What’s more, your stimulus check could be reduced if not eliminated altogether. If you filed your taxes jointly with a new spouse, their stimulus check could go to your back child support as well.
Pursue a Modification if Needed
If you can’t afford your child support payments because you experienced a significant change in your financial circumstances, the solution is to promptly petition the court for a downward modification. Since child support does not stop if you lose your job and it’s not retroactive, it’s in your best interests to address the matter now, before your arrears end up being more than they should be. To get started, contact the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC.