Navigating Your Coronavirus-Related Child Support Issues with the Help of Seattle Divorce Services
Currently King County and many other Washington courts are only hearing limited types of family law motions due to Coronavirus-related restrictions. If you have a pressing family law issue, talk to a Seattle family law attorney about your situation and whether the court is an option for you right now, as well as what other dispute resolution options may be available.
Is There Any Relief From Child Support Payments During the Coronavirus Shutdowns in Washington?
There are no automatic changes to child support because of COVID-19 stay in place orders. Children’s expenses continue, so support is still needed. However, in many cases the ability to pay support is impacted by job layoffs or reduced hours. If that is the case, then you may need to talk to a Seattle child support law firm about your situation.
One question to ask yourself is whether you expect the income change to be long lasting or just for a few months (will you have a job to go back to)? If the income change is expected to be of fairly short duration, then it may not be worth the expense of trying to get your child support payments obligation changed. You would not want to spend more money pursuing the change than the change itself would amount to.
What Steps Can I Take to Obtain Some Child Support Relief During COVID-19?
The first and most basic step is to talk to the other parent. Especially if you believe your income loss is only temporary, they may be willing to agree to at least defer some of the child support until later. It is always best to keep making good faith efforts to do what you can – making some child support payment during Coronavirus loss of work is always better than making no payment at all.
Keep in mind that any agreement to lower your child support payment due to COVID-19 does not actually affect your legal child support obligation unless that agreement is put into a court order. As long as there is no new court order changing the child support payments, you could be subject to enforcement action at any time to recover unpaid support. Your Seattle family law attorneys can help with the necessary court orders.
A second step is to ask the other parent to participate in some a more formal process to work out child support payment changes during the Coronavirus crisis. Because the courts are currently limited in what types of family law cases they can hear, you may want to consider other dispute resolution options such as mediation or arbitration. Mediation involves having a neutral professional guide your discussions with the other parent, while arbitration is a matter of hiring a private judge to decide the issues for the two you.
A third step is talking to a Seattle family law attorney about filing with the court for a child support modification. Where you believe your income loss due to the Coronavirus is long term, you may need to file a case even if you will not be able to get into court right away. The court does not have the ability to change child support payments prior to the date of filing, so the earlier you file, the earlier the date the child support payments can be modified back to.
On the other hand however, one problem you need to be aware of is that when you are out of work, the courts tend to impute your income at the level you were earning at your last job. The assumption is that you have the ability to make that kind of income because you have done so before. You will need to be able to show that you no longer have the ability to earn that level of income. Sometimes that is best done by waiting to file until after you have obtained new employment, so you have a defined income to point to. You will want to discuss this issue with your Seattle family law attorneys to decide what is the best way to proceed in your specific situation.
Do I Still Have To Make Child Support Payments If I Am Not Getting To See My Children Due To Coronovirus Stay In Place Measures?
Child support payments and parenting plan arrangements during COVID-19 are two separate matters. The fact that one is not being followed is not an allowed excuse for failing to comply with the other.
What If Part Of My Child Support Is For Daycare Or Other Tuition That Is Not Being Used During the COVID-19 Stay At Home Orders?
If some of your child support payment is for extra expenses (above the basic support obligation), and those expenses are not actually being incurred because of a Coronavirus shelter in place order, you may be entitled to reimbursement of the amounts you paid during that period.
If the other parent will not agree to voluntarily reimburse you, then you may need to talk to a Seattle family law attorney about filing an action to require reimbursement.
Do NOT just reduce your child support payments by the amount you feel you should be reimbursed without talking to a Seattle family law attorney. The courts tend to get very unhappy with self-help measures.
What If I Am The Receiving Parent?
If the other parent has stopped or reduced making child support payments due to Coronavirus layoffs or work slowdowns, you should talk to a Seattle Family Attorney about what steps to take.
The best option may be to come to an agreement that allows a deferral of some of the child support until the other parent can be back at work. This is essentially a loan, so treat it as such. The agreement should specify when the deferred support will be start being repaid and what the monthly payments on the back support will be. You should have your Seattle family law attorneys help you with the agreement to make sure it is done properly.
You may also need to contact the DSHS Division of Child Support. They can take enforcement actions or other measures as appropriate.
Keep in mind that if you go to court (once you are able to get into court), you could find that the child support obligation is reduced anyway. So do not treat this as a first option. Talk to a Seattle Family Attorney about your specific situation before taking any significant actions.
Let Our Seattle Child Support Lawyers Help You Understand Your Options
When you need to discuss child support payments with a Seattle child support lawyer, give us a call at 206-783-2215 or use our contact form to make an appointment for an initial consultation where we can further discuss the specifics of your case. During the COVID-19 stay at home period, we offer both phone and video conference consultations.