COVID-19 Child Support Issues and Options
COVID-19 Child Support: Job and Income Losses Affect a Parent’s Ability to Pay Child Support
The December2020 Jobs Report indicated a decrease in jobs for the first time since April. The current report is that 140,000 jobs are no longer available. The unemployment rate has remained steady since April, holding at 6.7 percent. With election-year uncertainty and so much debate over the Coronavirus, many Americans are being cautious with spending, and with slow spending comes a lack of reason for companies to hire new employees, affecting the ability of many to pay child support because of COVID-19.
The long-term impact of serious financial conditions and ongoing business closures takes time to affect people, and some take a harder hit than others. Consider a local restaurant owner taking every step in their power to keep their doors open and pay their employees and vendors. At the end of the day, the local restaurant and other small business owners might not be drawing any income for themselves.
In Southlake, Attorney Leslie Barrows has been a divorce and family lawyer for many years, and she has seen and heard many reasons there is a problem with child support payments. Her experience matters in helping clients make smart choices in addressing COVID-19 child support issues.
Texas Attorney General: Child Support and COVID-10
People Ask, What Are Common Reasons Child Support Is Not Being Paid?
First, let us assume that parents ordered to pay child support are subject to an Income Withholding Order and the human resources or payroll department directly withholds the amount of monthly child support due, which goes to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, who gives the support money to the child support recipient. This scenario is easy to understand when we think about how the collection and distribution of child support are supposed to work. But what happens when the real story is more complex?
If the child support obligor is self-employed and or has greatly varying income, the child support process can be a challenge. In many cases, you must go to court for an order of enforcement if payments are not being paid, or for modifications, if there is a substantial change in the income of the obligor parent.
The reasons child support payments are not being made could be anything from job loss to reduction in income. In other cases, a parent willfully refuses to make scheduled child support payments in the correct amount to be spiteful. There are many ways your family lawyer can handle a spirited non-payer.
Unique COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Job Loss and Child Support
Many people lost jobs or experienced temporary or permanent reductions in income as a direct result of COVID closures. It is important to immediately notify your attorney if this happens. It might be necessary to file a case to modify child support obligations to affect the net resources of the child support obligor. As many legal issues are litigated over Zoom calls, a modification or enforcement case can proceed that way. Understand that some courts may be behind with a backlog of suits affected by the Coronavirus court closures and disruptions.
Trying to find a new job is imperative. A judge is not going to appreciate inaction when it comes to making money to support children. Even if the previous income was higher and the job lost, was significant, anything to bring in money is helpful while getting back to where things were.
Some parents with job losses are receiving unemployment benefits, but what about those who are self-employed and cannot get unemployment? Some are selling personal assets to pay child support. If it is possible, and there is a problem with child support, consider working it out directly with the other parent. Communicate what is known and what is expected. For example, if the interruption to income is going to be temporary, it might be possible to avoid the expense of going to court for enforcement or modification. After things stabilize financially, any unpaid amounts can be figured out.
Consequences for Nonpayment of Child Support in Texas
The Texas Office of the Attorney General has all kinds of tools to enforce child support obligations. If someone loses income it is up to them to get their child support obligation modified, because otherwise the unpaid support amounts add up and so can the enforcement actions.
These are some of the actions the Attorney General can take to enforce a child support order:
· License Suspension: driver's license, professional license, hunting, and fishing licenses can all be suspended for failure to pay support.
· Passport Denial: a noncustodial parent not paying child support can be denied a new passport as well as the renewal of a current passport.
· Liens: a lien can be filed against property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, personal injury claims, insurance settlements, and other assets, for nonpayment of child support.
· Credit Bureau Reporting: the law requires the amount of child support owed and paid to be reported to the major credit reporting agencies.
· Lottery Intercept: lottery prizes may be intercepted and used to pay past-due child, medical, and dental support.
· Civil or Criminal Contempt: a civil contempt charge for nonpayment of child support includes a specific number of days in jail and/or a fine for missed payments, meanwhile a criminal contempt charge isalso available to put the obligor in jail until they comply with the court order and pay a “purge” amount or all the support in arrears.
Options for Child Support Recipients Who Are Not Receiving Child Support Payments
Call the lawyer and talk about the available options. Remember that aggressively enforcing child support can impede the obligor’s availability to make money. If the Attorney General takes their driver's license, professional license, and makes it nearly impossible to earn an income, expect less. Remember that there are many cases where past-due child support payments add up and then get paid off with the cooperation of co-parents who always remain in the best interests of the child.
Filing a Lawsuit for Enforcement or Modification of Child Support Obligations
Here at the Barrows Firm, our attorneys, paralegals, and staff understand that some people are determined not to obey the Court’s Order and will avoid their duties whenever possible. Especially during something as overwhelming as a pandemic, some people think they can fall between the cracks and not get caught intentionally shirking child support obligations. A common scenario is when the obligor loses a job or has a business income loss and misrepresents their finances and net resources. That is not a game anyone recommends playing because the Judges and lawyers have all heard it before and the outcome on the willful non-payor can be significant.
Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake for Legal Advice forCOVID-19 Child Support Issues Questions at (817) 481-1583