What about child support if you’ve lost your income due to coronavirus?
The coronavirus pandemic has affected all facets of society and stripped thousands of people of a large part of their income for several months at least. In situations like this it can often be a challenge to pay all your living expenses as well as child support. What can be done to make your situation easier?
How can child support be decreased?
First of all we always recommend attempting to reach an agreement with your co-parent before heading to court. An agreement is the fastest, least aggressive solution, though of course it is not always possible to achieve. In that case you have no recourse but to go to court with a motion to adjust the amount of child support under Section 923 of the Civil Code.
Section 923 allows the court to change the agreement and previous decisions on child support for minor children in the event of a material change in the circumstances of the child and/or the parent paying child support. The court can decrease, increase or cancel the child support payments.
What counts as a material change in circumstances?
A material change in circumstances for the parent required to pay child support means, for instance, loss of employment, disability, bankruptcy, or the creation or expiration of other child support obligations. In short, it refers to an objective state the parent encountered, whether by the parent's own doing or not.
If the parent has lost their means of support due to temporary loss of employment, the court will review the reasons for the situation and the other financial circumstances of the parent required to pay support, i.e. the other potential sources of income, existing property, the parent's lifestyle and financial circumstances of other relatives.
If the parent remains unemployed, the situation becomes somewhat more complicated, especially if they do not have any other property or prospects for other income. In such cases, courts usually rely on information from the relevant unemployment office: whether the parent required to pay child support is listed as a job seeker, whether positions are available in the parent's field, how much the parent could earn given their qualifications and experience, and whether the parent has a realistic chance of finding employment.
How will the court decide?
If the court reviews the criteria above and concludes that the parent has experienced a material loss of income through no fault of their own and child support payments could threaten the parent's minimum required income, the court can decide to decrease the child support payments.
Many parents with child support obligations have become unable to pay their child support due to the coronavirus pandemic. Parents in that situation have the option of filing a court motion to decrease child support payments. It is reasonable to assume that in the present circumstances, where entire industries are unable to function because of government restrictions, proving loss of income through no fault of the parent's own should not be difficult. The outcome, of course, will also depend partly on the other factors mentioned above and the court's discretion.
OTHER ARTICLES ON FAMILY LAW: