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COVID and Child Support Arrears

by Paul Petersen


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on our courts. Not only has it changed how all parties involved with any given case interact, but it has also significantly slowed the timeframes for verdicts and rulings. 

At the same time, the courts have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of individuals in need of relief from financial obligations to their children or ex-spouses, according to jdsupra.com. Due to the ramifications of the pandemic, including job loss, many parents have reported mounting child support arrears that they have no hope of paying quickly. 

If you find yourself in this situation, there are some actions that you can take to help yourself and your family.

Get legal help. Every state — even every county — is taking different action and precautions amidst the pandemic. Even as some courts reopen to normal procedure, others remain closed to a majority of in-person activity. Reaching out to a family attorney to help navigate the system will be a big help in these situations. The attorney can also help you better understand your options. 

Contact your local child support agency. While some of these agencies may still be closed to in-person appointments, many of them are serving customers via phone and virtually. They are helping parents who are having difficulty paying child support because of the pandemic with requests for payment reviews and adjustments, and also helping them make changes to their child support order when they work out agreements with their co-parent. 

Work out an agreement with the recipient of the child support. It is important to take the initial step of communicating about the situation with your co-parent. This should happen as soon as you know you may have a problem paying the support. If you have a good relationship with your co-parent, an agreement about a temporary modification may be possible. When you are working out this agreement, keep in mind that an oral agreement is not binding. It is essential that you document your communication efforts and any stipulations you and your spouse spell out as part of the child support modification. Not only will this protect you in the long run, the agreement will also need to be submitted to the court for a judge to review and approval.

Consider your unemployment payments. If you have filed for unemployment because of COVID-19, know that those payments will be considered when a court looks at your ability to pay child support. 

Document attempts to find work. As you make the effort to find work so that you can fulfill your child support requirements, you should document those steps so that they are available for your co-parent and the court should they have questions. 

If you find yourself unable to pay child support, it is essential that you take action quickly. If you fail to pay, no matter the reason, you will face repercussions. Unpaid child support can impact your credit score, cause you to lose your driver’s license, or even jail time.