In mid-March, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due
to the novel coronavirus. In a statement, President Trump said:
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States,
by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the
United States of America, including sections 201 and 301 of the National
Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601
et seq.) and consistent with section 1135 of the Social Security Act (SSA), as
amended (42 U.S.C. 1320b-5), do hereby find and proclaim that the COVID-19
outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency, beginning
March 1, 2020.
COVID-19 was identified as a national emergency, the State of California has not
wasted time; it took swift action to protect the health and safety of
its residents. Stay-at-home orders were put in place, schools were shut
down, and people were directed to stay home, avoid people outside their
household, wash hands with soap and water frequently, cover their coughs
and sneezes with a tissue, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces,
maintain a social distance of six feet when outside the home, and wear
a cloth face covering when they go outside.
People were also directed to NOT:
- Shake hands
- Touch their faces
- Leave the house EXCEPT for essential activities
- Stockpile masks and gloves
- See their doctor unless they call ahead of time
As the state enforces stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus,
it’s affecting businesses large and small. And businesses in certain
industries are taking a harder hit than others. Some of the industries
hit the hardest include travel, tourism, manufacturing, dining, the culinary
arts, salon services, gyms, health clubs, airlines, and retail. As a result
of mass business shutdowns, millions of Americans lost their jobs, which
is affecting everything from spending to mortgages, to auto loans, to
If you lost your job
because of COVID-19 or if you’re a small business owner whose business has been impacted
by the pandemic and now you can’t pay
child support, you may be wondering if the government might give you a break. After
all, a lot of people are getting breaks from mortgage lenders, auto loan
companies, and credit card issuers.
Will Paying Parents Get Relief?
While debtors may have some of their monthly bills suspended by lenders
to help them through the pandemic, that is not the case with child support.
The local child support agency will not put child support payments on
hold until paying parents to get back to work. That’s because lawmakers
believe child support is too important to suspend payments. As such, a
parent cannot stop paying child support because they lose their jobs,
become disabled, mentally ill, incarcerated, or because the nation is
experiencing a health crisis like the coronavirus.
Let’s say you lost your job because of COVID-19 or you’re a
small business owner and the company’s profits came to a grinding
halt and now you can’t afford child support. What’s going
to happen to you? If you skip child support payments, the local child
support agency will catch on and it can take all kinds of enforcement
actions against you, such as:
- Driver license suspension
- Professional license suspension
- Recreational license suspension
- Denial of U.S. passport
- Bank account seizure
- Withholding of economic stimulus check
- Real estate liens
- Negative credit reporting
- Wage garnishment
You see, both parents are legally required to provide for their children’s
financial needs, regardless of their employment situation. If your child
was living with you and you lost your job, you wouldn’t suddenly
stop feeding them or keeping a roof over their head. You’d make
sure your child’s basic needs were met regardless of your financial
circumstances. Well, it’s the same with child support; you’re
expected to continue paying it no matter what.
“Not paying child support can have very serious consequences. If
the court finds that someone has the ability to pay support but is willfully
not paying it, the court can decide that the person ordered to pay support
is "in contempt of court." Being in contempt of court can be
very serious because it can result in jail time. This enforcement tool
is generally used only when all others have failed,” according to the
What Solution Do You Have?
If you can’t afford your monthly child support obligation, our advice
is to immediately contact our firm to explore asking the court for a downward
modification. It’s important to remember that child support does
NOT change until a court says it does. So, if you skip payments, it will
continue accruing at the existing monthly amount and there is no way for
the court to go back and reduce what you owe or change it from the date
you lost your job.
Since the local child support agency has many tools in its toolbox for
enforcing a child support order, you want to be proactive and take immediate
action to modify your support obligation. If you do nothing and stop paying,
the funds in your bank account can be taken (including joint accounts),
your driver’s license can be suspended, you can be denied a U.S.
passport, your tax refund and stimulus check can be taken, and so on.
So, it’s important to act fast before any of these negative things
happen to you.
To learn more about modifying a child support order, we invite you to
contact Claery & Hammond, LLP for a
free case evaluation.