As COVID-19 and the resulting measures to contain the spread of this virus continue to impact every facet of life, one troubling development for families with child support agreements is that many spouses have lost jobs. Unemployment is at staggering levels as many businesses closed because of the pandemic. Williamson, Clune & Stevens, divorce lawyers in Ithaca, Elmira, Binghamton and Syracuse, knows that the simple solution of “just get another job” does not apply when numerous businesses are closed and jobs are not available.
Even as the various industries and companies are reopening on a limited basis, jobs are still scarce and unemployment remains high. Many families are faced with the dilemma of a noncustodial parent being unable to meet their support obligations due to unemployment. This places the custodial parent in a difficult position, especially if the child support payments constitute the majority of their income.
Unemployment and COVID-19
More than 22 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the four weeks leading up to April 11, 2020. That number is now at 33 million. This includes 1.8 million in the State of New York as of May 2020. Additionally, attempts at reopening in many states have sparked new jumps in the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, prompting many governors to reestablish mandates for wearing masks and restricting the numbers allowed in public gatherings again.
How this may affect unemployment is yet to be seen. But with some returning to work as parts of the state outside NYC move to Phase Three of reopening, there are still new cases of coronavirus being reported each day. Some fear that another round of company shutdowns may be in the future. Overall, most Americans who lost jobs from COVID-19 are still struggling to restart new careers elsewhere. Many New Yorkers face a similar situation.
What to Do Until the Family Court Can Issue a Judgement
According to the New York State Child Support Services Website, “Either parent or the CSEU can file a petition in Family Court to request a modification (change) to an existing child support order. The modification petition should be based on the fact that either the custodial or noncustodial parent’s circumstances have materially changed (e.g., change in income or other changes in circumstances).”
Family Courts throughout New York State have reopened on a limited basis and are accepting new filings for adjusting support agreements. However, the backlog of prepared cases being submitted is astronomical. To assist with the flow of new submissions, a new web page with information about child support and COVID-19 has been established that provides links and important information for filing for support adjustments.
Williamson, Clune & Stevens, child custody lawyers in Ithaca and Syracuse, can work with you to prepare a new filing for adjustment of your child support payments due to unemployment or other job-related problems. Our attorneys understand the pressing needs on your family because of COVID-19 and can help you work out solutions that may help during this time.
We also suggest that custodial and noncustodial parents alike who are suffering because of unemployment due to COVID-19 follow these suggestions:
- If you haven’t already, apply for unemployment assistance through the State of New York to help meet your family’s needs.
- Seek new employment where possible. Efforts to seek work will be viewed favorably by the Family Courts.
- Contact local care centers or other organizations who may be able to provide assistance due to unemployment (meals, financial assistance, etc.).
- Contact creditors to inquire about COVID-19-related forbearance programs that may allow you to skip payments for a few months (typically, these payments are added onto the end of your note).
- Make every effort to meet your support agreement obligations, or at least some of it.
- Both parents should make every attempt to cooperate regarding financial hardships due to COVID-19 and related unemployment problems. You both want the best for your family, so try to work together to overcome the struggles if support payments cannot be made at this time.
- Work with family attorneys from Williamson, Clune & Stevens to craft equitable plans for support while waiting for your turn before the Family Court. Whenever parents can agree on a workable solution themselves regarding support payments, the courts will be favorably inclined to agree with said solution or to make necessary adjustments to the support agreement.
Williamson, Clune & Stevens, a community-focused family law firm in Ithaca, Syracuse, Elmira and Binghamton, understands that many custodial and noncustodial parents are facing challenges from unemployment arising from COVID-19. We are here to help you find workable solutions for your family, and to assist you with petitioning the Family Court for adjustments to your support agreement when necessary. Call us today for a consultation.