The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on the legal field to which attorneys must quickly adapt. One of the many areas it has altered is the way in which issues related to lost wages and child support are addressed. The pandemic caused a major uptick in cases involving lost wages due to public health orders. Naturally, lost wages can be an obstacle when it comes to making timely child support payments in full. Read on for more on the legal effects of COVID on lost wages as pertaining to child support.
What Situations May Cause a Change in Child Support?
Change of Income
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been widespread across industries. A 2021 Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey found that 20 million adults are living in households that are experiencing food insecurity and 11.5 million adult renters are behind on rent. A June 2021 Census Bureau study reports that 1 in 8 of surveyed adults with children lacked sufficient access to food in the last seven days. Stay-at-home orders enacted in 2020 caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose income. As of May of 2021, the aggregate unemployment rate remained 7.3 million jobs below its pre-COVID level. A sudden loss of a job can make it extremely difficult to keep up with financial obligations that were set in accordance with a different income. If a parent no longer has access to the funds necessary to make these payments, child support payment plans may need to be readjusted.
As of July 2021, there have been approximately 33,605,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States. The effects of this virus have varied widely. Some patients have been rendered unable to work for long periods of time. Others have not been able to recover to full capacity. Parents that have been infected with the virus may be unable to provide the same amount that they were before the pandemic. While there is an increased level of understanding and leniency given the pandemic, it is important to comply with your legal obligations. Child support is a legal financial obligation that must be handled in court. A Maryland child support attorney will help address these issues.
Maryland law allows for a court to modify child support dating back to the date a request is initially filed. Accordingly, working with a Maryland child support attorney in court to adjust financial obligations as soon as income loss occurs is essential. A parent who waits too long to file could lose out on retroactive modification for the period of time between the income loss and the filing date.
Reduction of Support Before Modification
When a parent experiences a change to their income, it can create a difficult situation, both financially and emotionally. Recoupment is an option that allows courts to require reimbursement of overpaid child support. However, recoupment is highly theoretical. Child support paid is presumed to be used for expenses associated with upkeep of the child. This leaves parents and child support attorneys the decision of whether to continue to pay the required amount without reimbursement or reduce the child support until a court can make a new decision. This could leave the parent vulnerable to a contempt case or collection actions. Ideally, parents reach an agreement on a temporary modification, which must be approved by the court. An attorney can help parents make this decision based on specific requirements and the parent’s changed income situation.
Federal and State Relief and Child Support
Across the country, most states offer assistance to parents who are struggling to make their payments. Parents residing in Maryland, for example, may apply for financial assistance through the city’s Payment Incentive Program if they have experienced a significant loss of income.
The federal government funds over 90 programs across 30 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that provide job training non-custodial parents who are having trouble paying child support. The Office of Child Support Enforcement’s (OCSE) map tool can connect you with a local program. Contact your local OCSE office. They can connect you with any resources that might be available based on your situation.
If you have experienced difficulty paying your Maryland child support due to lost wages associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, contact BF Law. Our attorneys can help connect you with all available resources based on your specific situation and mitigate any legal issues. Call 410-647-6677 today.