Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support if I Lost my Job because of COVID-19?
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the closure of tens of thousands of “non-essential” businesses, and millions of Americans have been laid off or furloughed. Many who have lost their jobs have been able to get unemployment benefits, but some do not qualify, and for some, unemployment is not nearly enough to make up for the income they have lost.
For many small business owners who have been forced to close because of the government mandate, the situation has been even more difficult. Congress passed legislation that created a forgivable loan program through the SBA, called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). But obtaining access to this funding has been a complicated and confusing process, made worse by the program running out of money for a couple weeks before Congress provided additional funding.
The sudden financial struggles that many Americans are going through because of COVID-19 has made it difficult to meet even their most basic needs, such as paying rent and putting food on the table. And for those who have child support obligations and find themselves out of work, it has been hard to come up with the support payments they are required to make.
What if I Can’t Pay My Child Support because of a COVID-19 Related Income Loss?
Many people are concerned about having to come up with child support payments when their income has been significantly reduced because of the coronavirus. In this situation, you would need to seek a modification of your child support, which is allowed under South Carolina law when there is a “substantial change in circumstance”.
If there is any good news for those who have lost income because of this pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak is known by everyone, and it should not be as difficult to convince a court that a modification is justified. Under normal circumstances, those who request a modification are generally viewed with more suspicion, but that is less likely during these times.
All of that said, you still need to be proactive and take the steps needed to do this modification legally and properly. First and foremost, it is far better to communicate with the other parent, discuss the situation, and try to come to an agreement without having to battle it out in court. Contact the other parent as soon as possible, let them know the financial struggles you are having, and try to come up with at least a temporary alternative arrangement until things get back to normal.
Be sure to document all of the communications you have made with the other parent, so that if you do need to go to court, you can show they were properly notified about your situation. Also make sure to document attempts you have made to find work, obtain unemployment and other types of assistance, and any other efforts you have made to show that you have tried your best to meet your child support obligation. Also be sure to make at least a partial support payment each time one is due- that will also help show that you are making a good-faith effort to get your children the support they need, despite the circumstances.
An Informal Agreement is Not Enough
It is important to stress that, even if you are able to come to an agreement with the other parent, you still need to make it legally binding. Just having an informal understanding with your ex could expose you to trouble later on if they decide to come after you for back child support that you did not pay.
If there is agreement between both parents on a child support modification, this change can be presented to a court for approval and issuance of a court order. This makes the agreement binding. If, on the other hand, you have tried, but you have been unable to come to an agreement with the other parent, then you should be ready to argue your case before the court. Either way, it is best to work with an experienced family law attorney to help guide you through this process.
Contact the Cate Law Firm for Assistance with Family Law Matters
The coronavirus pandemic has caused financial struggles for many South Carolinians, which in turn is made it difficult to meet various obligations. If you are in this situation, or if you on the other end and facing a reduced support payment from your ex because of COVID-19, the Cate Law Firm is here to help.
Message us online or call our office today at (864) 585-4226 to speak with a member of our legal team. We look forward to serving you!