Almost overnight, with the Corona pandemic, the world as we knew it has changed. All non-essential businesses and schools have closed, employees' jobs lost, stock portfolio values plummeted and, people are ill and suffering. We are nervous about becoming infected and about our economic futures.
At least for the short term, the only certainty is that it will not be business as usual. So, with all this uncertainty, here are a few tips to help you navigate parenting and child support issues during this crisis period.
Maintain your parenting plan but with flexibility.
With school closures, modified work from home schedules, travel restrictions, and the need to self- quarantine, it may be impossible to keep the existing parenting schedule. It is crucial that parents communicate and maintain flexibility. A parenting schedule that worked when parents were working away from home and the children were attending school probably can be adjusted to provide for more meaningful parenting time.
Memorialize any changes to the parenting schedule.
If you modify the parenting schedule, send a confirming text or email. Don't assume that just because you changed a parenting schedule this week, the change is going to be applicable next week, particularly in light of rapidly changing conditions.
Pay child support.
I know of no other time when so many people lost their ability to work at once. Ordinarily, faced with such a drastic change in economic circumstances, you could seek a modification of your child support and maintenance payments. The request would be retroactive to the date of the application. The only problem is that now, and until further notice, the courts are closed so you cannot file a motion or get any relief from your obligations.
To add insult to injury, any arrears that accrue before an application for a modification is made cannot be forgiven or reduced. In other words, if you snooze, you lose. When the pandemic ends, the courts will be overwhelmed with requests for modifications. It is yet to be determined what courts will do with arrears that have accumulated while the courts were closed.
On the other hand, the purpose of child support is to pay the costs of food, clothing, and shelter for your children. Even though you may not be working, your kids still need money for food. Just as you depend on your income, the custodial parent relies on the child support to pay for your children's necessities; you should not and cannot unilaterally stop making payments. Make a payment even if it is a partial payment.
If you are not receiving your payment, contact your attorney so that your rights can be protected.
If you are paying child support through a wage deduction and make a direct payment, keep proof or, better yet, get a receipt.
If you are not receiving a paycheck, there will be no wage deduction for your support payment. If you make a direct support payment, document it or, better yet, get a receipt. You will have to later prove to Child Support Enforcement that you made the support payment and that no arrears are owed.
Let Me Help
Though my office is physically closed, my virtual door is open.
In addition to providing traditional divorce and family law representation, during this crisis period, I will be focused on delivering rapid-response legal services to clients facing emergency financial and child-related issues.
I am available to schedule consultations by telephone or video conference. In addition, I am prepared to provide same-day video mediation for parents and ex-spouses who need to expeditiously resolve coronavirus impacted issues, including visitation, parenting time, and child support and maintenance.
If I can be of help, please call 212-683-9551 or email me.