I Was Laid Off Due to Coronavirus. How Do I Change My Child Support Agreement?

If you have lost your job due to the coronavirus, you are part of a tremendous group. According to the Washington Post, over 22 million Americans have lost their jobs during the past few months and more may follow suit. A high percentage of laid-off workers are eligible for unemployment benefits; over 17 million have already applied. Although the federal government has increased unemployment benefits, a large proportion of Americans are fighting to put food on their tables and, in this country where divorce is very common, many of them are also struggling to make child support payments. 

If you feel overwhelmed and frightened by your responsibilities as a divorced parent and don’t know where to turn for advice, Orlando Family Team is a good place to start. We not only have in-depth knowledge of family law in Florida and throughout the nation, we are also well-versed in all of the cutting-edge legislation being enacted in response to the present medical crisis. Be aware that simply stopping your child support payments without consulting with a trustworthy attorney may have long-term negative legal consequences.

In the midst of the pandemic, divorced parents who are providing child support for their children are trying to figure out how to modify their divorce agreements until they get back on their feet. In some cases, the custodial parent may be able to work remotely and therefore may continue to have a stable income. If your ex-spouse is in this category, she/he may be willing to negotiate a temporary moratorium to give you a bit of breathing space. Speaking of breathing — if you have been infected with the coronavirus your ex is even more likely to be flexible.

Of course, if your ex is also out of work, it will be more difficult to negotiate a compromise since both of you are in dire straits. It is possible that you may be able to agree to a lesser amount of child support during this period, rather than a temporary hiatus in payment. 

Because, in a fair number of cases, your child may be quarantined in one parent’s home, and therefore that parent is paying more toward meeting the child’s needs for food, clothing, supplies for remote schooling, etc., and the parent being kept at a distance may be willing to pay more support to reimburse higher costs. Conversely, the custodial parent may, if possible, be willing to forego child support temporarily in response to the devastation the other parent is experiencing due to separation from the child.

Clearly, every situation has its own unique features, and people also may behave differently during a crisis than they do ordinarily. These differences may make for easier or more strained relations between the divorced couple, depending on how each responds to emergencies. Some individuals may react to increased stress with hostility; others may respond to extreme circumstances by becoming more reasonable than usual. Whatever your particular situation, checking in with your family law attorney is essential both because he or she is experienced in these matters and will be able to advise you objectively, and because you don’t want to be left holding the bag by making a verbal agreement that doesn’t stick.

It is always much easier to obtain a child support modification if you can get your ex to agree. Our child support attorneys are efficient as well as caring. We will explain your options and strategize with you how best to approach your ex in this specific situation. Compromise may be appropriate, though you must be careful to keep a record of any informally articulated agreement to avoid misinterpretation or enforcement issues later on. This is where having dependable legal counsel is critical. 

Legal Modifications to Child Support Agreements When Courts Are Closed

It is important to remember that, under Florida law, child support can always be modified as long as the change involves at least a $50 or 15 percent alteration — whichever is greater. You can always file for modification at any time there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” This substantial change may consist of either a change of income for either parent or a change in the overnight parenting arrangement. The latter means that if a parent ends up taking care of the child for 275 nights during the year instead of the 150 stipulated in the initial divorce decree, a modification of child support may be requested.

Although a great many courts in Florida are open with only limited access, and the Florida Supreme Court is closed at present, legal matters can still be handled in the state. Most lawyers continue to practice while taking necessary precautions. Fortunately for all of us, the internet provides a variety of means of communicating and legal processing that does not require face-to-face contact. There are virtual alternative dispute resolution methods available for legally binding compromise.

Other Ways To Solve the Problem, at Least Temporarily

In addition to several types of government outreach during the coronavirus outbreak, you may find individuals, or even large entities more cooperative and understanding during these dark days. Already, evictions and foreclosures have been postponed in Florida, and you may find your landlord or mortgage company willing to work out a flexible payment schedule. If you are able to defer your rent or mortgage payments for 3 months, for example, it may enable you to continue with your child support payments. It is also possible that you have the skills to find a new job at which you can work remotely.

Right Now You Need Insightful Legal Counsel

Before you panic, get in touch with Orlando Family Team. In an emergency, we will help you file a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support and serve the petition on the other spouse. Though a typical modification of child support takes at least 6 months, we may be able to cut that time in half, or even to have your request processed within 30 days. Depending on the financial data we provide, the court may offer you temporary financial or medical hardship relief, especially if you are ill with the coronavirus.