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Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support Even Though I Lost My Job Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Child support is a popular and controversial topic. No one wants to pay child support and the child support received is never enough, and this has been the case even before the pandemic affected us. Child support has become such a huge issue that the government opened an entire department to specifically cater to child support. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, several employment opportunities have closed, and people are left without jobs. To make matters worse, responsible parents are stressing out on how they will be paying their court ordered child support, in addition to how they will be paying their bills too. Several attorneys, such as myself and my colleagues, have repeatedly been asked this same question by our clients; do they still have to pay child support during this time? And an even more important question, will they be receiving any child support from the other parent? The simple answer is YES.  You should be paying your court ordered child support. You should be receiving child support.

But it is not that simple, especially during this time when several parents are furloughed and not receiving any income. As we know, even trying to get unemployment is difficult, because of the high volume of applicants. Even after you apply for unemployment, there is a delay in getting your unemployment check. The one-time payment of $1,200 may not even be enough to pay for your personal expenses, let alone child support. Let’s not forget that you may not even get the stimulus check if you did not do your taxes or were making an income higher than $75,000 in 2019.

The frustration is real for both the payor and the receiver. A parent ordered to pay child support is left helpless, because not only can they not pay because of their lack of income, but also cannot even file a motion to modify child support due to their change of income, since the courts are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents are left asking themselves “What do I do now?”

If you have an attorney, contact your attorney to discuss what is the best approach to take in your situation. The San Diego Superior Court has recently implemented Emergency Rule 13 regarding the effective date for requests to modify support. Specifically, even though the courts remain closed to the general public, an order modifying or terminating a support order may be made effective as of the date the request and supporting papers are mailed or otherwise served on the other party or other party’s attorney. Therefore, even if you do not currently have an attorney, seek legal advice immediately as you may miss an opportunity to retroactively modify your support orders by waiting until the official reopening of the courts. In short, one parent should not take advantage of the situation and purposely not pay the court ordered child support and the other parent should not threaten litigation for nonpayment of child support knowing that the payor parent is currently not earning any income.

When you are a parent who is ordered to pay child support, the payment should be a priority. Child support should be treated at the same level as paying your rent. It should not be treated as an unnecessary expense such as a credit card bill. Child support is to pay for the child’s expenses, such as food, clothes, utilities, rent, etc. And if you are a parent with funds to pay your child support, then it is best to follow the court order and make the payment. Again, you are helping your child with this payment. If you are unable to make the full payment, contact your attorney and the other parent to communicate your current struggle. This is not the time to take advantage of the situation and forfeit child support payments because you wanted to save money. The child should and must always come first.

By:  Anna Encinias, Esq., Attorney at Contreras Law Firm

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