divorce and coronavirus covid 19

How COVID-19 Affects Divorce, Support Payments, and Child Custody

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SKIP AHEAD:
How Does COVID-19 Affect Divorce?
Are Courts Still Open?
Can You File For Divorce?
What Changes Are There in the Divorce Process?
Are Parenting Plans Still Enforceable?
What If You’re Behind On Support Payments?
If You Lose Your Job Due To COVID Can You Get A Support Modification?

Over the past two years, COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of our lives. This includes divorce, custody situations, and other family law matters.

First, we want to reassure everyone that we remain open for any issues you face. We’ve been here and we will continue to be here to help.

We’ve implemented methods of remote communication when necessary or you prefer. Because our office has long been looked at as a national resource for clients that live out of state, we are also well ahead of the curve in remote communication methods. We also keep a rigorous cleaning regimen to ensure everyone’s safety.

HOW DOES COVID-19 AFFECT DIVORCE?

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a strange time for everyone, but we’re still here to do what we can to guide you through as best we can. We have received many questions from clientele that we want to share in the form of an FAQ below:

Are Courts Still Open?

Despite changes and new hurdles to clear, the courts remain in service during COVID-19.Courts have been closed, run at reduced capacity, and dealt with a significant backlog. But they are open.

This puts more attention on alternative methods of dispute resolution such as mediation and arbitration. These are tools that have already been very effective in resolving cases short of trial and are especially valuable now.

Can You File For Divorce?

Yes, you can proceed with a divorce, settling custody disputes, modifications, and other cases. It may look different, but with tools like video conferencing and other remote communication technology, you can still accomplish your goals. In reality, finalizing your may also take longer as well.

What Changes Are There In Divorce Process?

One of the biggest roadblocks currently is resolving temporary orders. An overloaded court system is dealing with a glut of cases, which has caused delays in this area. It also affects trials, though there are ways to resolve your divorce without appearing in court.

Again, this only serves to highlight the benefit of alternative dispute resolution tools like mediation and binding arbitration. These methods are already proven to be less costly and more efficient ways of resolving case issues.

Are Parenting Plans Enforcable?

The short answer is that there is no change to the enforceability of your current parenting plan or custody order.

However, there will definitely be issues and strains to contend with. Thanks to COIVD-19, variants, and spikes in cases, things remain in a state of constant flux. School, travel, and more get caught up in this uncertainty.  We’ve seen unusual issues arise during this time and deal with them best we can.

Ultimately, now is a time for both parents to try to work together in addressing the best interests of their children. Fortunately, there are many ways to communicate and connect digitally. Just make sure you don’t overstep any bounds in the parenting plan. It’s still important to play by the rules and avoid any unnecessary tension between you and the other parent.

This gives your kids, and you, something to look forward to. Regular chats also build a routine and help establish a sense of normalcy that often alleviates anxiety. Everyone needs that right now, especially your kids.

Sticking to the parenting arrangement, even virtually, also benefits any future custody cases. Taking advantage of your scheduled time with the kids demonstrates your desire to remain an involved parent. That reflects well on any claim you make down the road.

Most of all, it’s important to keep the lines of communication as open as possible.

What If You’re Behind On Support Payments?

In the United States, if you’re behind on your child support payments, the Division of Child Support must, by law, certify past due child support debts to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement for enforcement.

Even when behind on payments, if COVID-19 caused the delay in payment, you still have the right to argue for modification. Again, you have to show the impact. Demonstrate how the pandemic led to unforeseen and continuing financial devastation. This may serve as evidence to support your claims.

If You Lose Your Job Can You Get A Support Modification?

The easy answer is that your current support order is enforceable. Unlss you file for modification or adjustment, which you would need to initiate.

The good news is that a significant drop in your finances due to COVID may show the need to modify an existing support agreement. The bad news is that you face an uphill battle.

If both parties are on good terms, you can try to settle outside of court. If that isn’t an option, the next step is to file a motion to modify the support order with the local court.

What Type Of Evidence Is Required?

Timing is important. COVID-19 remains an open-ended battle. Though things keep moving in the right direction, there’s no saying how much longer we will feel its impact.

Presenting evidence makes a big difference. When looking to modify a child support or spousal maintenance order, you have to show your work.

Loss of employment or income due to COVID-19 is the starting point. Document everything, right away. This helps build a stronger case to present to the court. A judge will want to see that this was unintentional and out of your control.

Additionally, take steps to alleviate the loss of income. Seek out other jobs or take advantage of unemployment benefits or emergency relief. Again, track all of your efforts. This demonstrates a good faith effort to find new income.

Review Your existing support order

It’s always a good idea to take a close look at your existing support order. Many divorcing couples settle support obligations outside of court and maintain them by a separation agreement rather than a court order.

These agreements often contain a material change clause.

A material change clause allows you to review payments in the event of a change in circumstances. It may include a protocol for modification requests for situations like the loss of a job. In general, it’s a good idea to be well acquainted with these documents.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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