How Are Child and Spousal Support Obligations Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic?
By: Brian J. Forgue, Esq.
These are uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic has the world grinding to a halt and many questions remain unanswered, but the following is aimed at providing guidance and the best practical advice of how to navigate child and spousal support obligations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether you are the party paying support or receiving it, the main takeaway of this article is that support obligations remain enforceable.
Support obligations are always modifiable if there is a substantial change in circumstance, such as a loss of job, significant reduction of working hours, an increase or decrease in childcare expenses, or an increase or decrease in medical expenses. For example, in light of recent developments, suppose that you are considered an essential employee who must report to work and you have to hire a caretaker for your child(ren) whose school year has been suspended or cancelled due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to an increase in child support. Or, if your hours have been reduced or you have been laid off due to the effect of COVID-19, you may be entitled to a decrease in your support obligation.
Many people are experiencing some or all of the above-mentioned changes in circumstance and these changes are a legitimate basis to seek a modification of a support obligation. It is unclear if there are any considerations specifically linked to COVID-19 related issues and support, however, it would be safest to treat changes in circumstances due to the effects of COVID-19 like any other change in circumstance when seeking support modification.
Additionally, while courts are currently closed until further order due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to note that modification of a support obligation is influenced by when the party’s change in circumstance occurs and the date on which the party files for modification. The date on which a party files for modification is called the “Effective Date” and it is the date that the court will use to calculate retroactive support obligations or support awards. So, even though the courts are temporarily closed, a party seeking modification will still have to file their Petition to Modify Support to preserve their Effective Date, regardless of when the courts re-open for normal business.
It would be prudent to contact us, whether you are the party paying support or receiving it to discuss any modification and to prepare any necessary documentation to file with the court immediately, and preserve the Effective Date of your modification.
If you have questions concerning your support obligation, contact Brian at 610-840-0221 or by email at [email protected].