Q&A: Child Support During COVID-19.

The current global pandemic has caused devastating blows to both public health and the financial security of millions of Americans. For parents who have court orders to pay child support, the financial outlook may be especially bleak. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the U.S, and for many, the economic effects have already caused devastating health consequences and financial losses. As millions of Americans are now out of work, divorced or separated parents may be especially worried about providing financial support to their children. Here, Masters Law Group answers some commonly asked child support questions during this unprecedented time.

Q: Can you stop paying Child Support during the pandemic?

A: If you are one of the 7 million Americans with a child support agreement or order and you are out of work, you may be wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect your due payments.  However, the law remains clear that child support obligations still stand and orders are to be complied with unless a separate order provides otherwise.

If child support orders cannot be modified* (*see below) in a timely manner to reflect job loss, parents can quickly build child support debt and become subject to non-compliance penalties. (A parent may face sanctions such as the loss of a driver’s license, passport restrictions, and even jail time in extreme cases. Child support debt cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so it can affect your finances for a long time.)

Q: What is Temporary Modification?

A: Changes to current child support practices and policies can improve parents’ ability and willingness to pay support when they recover from the COVID-19 recession. Rather than stopping payments, a parent should try to work out an agreement with the recipient of the support. If the parents can agree on a temporary modification, they can submit the agreement to a court for approval.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the parent paying support can ask a court to order a temporary modification. A judge will review a parent’s financial situation in detail, including their income, assets, expenses, and debts, before deciding whether a modification is warranted.

Although each state has its own guidelines for calculating and modifying child support, courts generally consider each parent’s income and time spent with the child. Judges will review evidence to find income. In Illinois, courts base items as income based on:

  • Allocated parenting time
  • Financial affidavits
  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs
  • Banking statements
  • Other relevant documentation

Generally speaking, there needs to be a justifiable reason as to why the monthly support amount should be changed.

Q: What can I do if I cannot pay Child Support due to Covid-19?

A: If the courts are extremely busy, filing for a modification could take weeks. If possible, keep paying your current level of child support. This shows that you are focused on fulfilling your legal obligations and caring for your child, and it can help paint you in the best light in court for future disputes/issues.

If you find yourself without any funds at all, start by contacting your ex-spouse. Let them know about the problem and see if you can agree on a temporary arrangement. By keeping in touch with your child’s other parent throughout your situation – whether in person or through an experienced attorney – you may make it easier to maintain a positive relationship for the sake of your child and may provide an opportunity to resolve the issue of support payments.

Q: How can I get help with Child Support issues?

A: There are several ways to get financial assistance and resolve child support issues during the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you’ve suffered financial losses due to COVID-19, see if you qualify for financial assistance:

  1. Parents who are facing a financial emergency may want to seek help from an Illinois Child Support agency, or an Illinois-based Family Law Attorney with experience in Child Support issues. They can both help a parent negotiate with the parent receiving child support, and they can assist with filing any legal documents that may be needed.
  2. The CARES Act and Stimulus Checks provides financial aid ($1,200 + $500 for each dependent child) to individuals impacted by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. However, those with past due child support should not expect this benefit. The second stimulus payments are due soon and they may be garnished for a child support arrearage.
  3. Illinois’ Cook County’s Resources and Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) includes information on the federal and state funded child support collection and enforcement services known as the IV-D (4-D) Program.  Through the IV-D Program absent parents can be located, parentage can be established, and support  orders can be enforced to ensure child support payments.

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Generally speaking, child support issues are very complicated and require much interaction between the parents and the court. It’s in your best interests to hire a child support lawyer if you need assistance with child support issues during the pandemic and beyond.

Start here today by contacting the Family Law attorneys at Masters Law Group. We understand the laws and the court process inside and out, giving us the necessary knowledge and experience to ensure that your child is properly provided for.