The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and unchartered territory. We’ve all had to make changes in the way we live and many of us have suffered financial losses due to the negative impacts of the virus. The nationwide closures have caused many to lose their jobs. This is a terrifying time economically for many. Although Arkansas has begun phased re-openings, most businesses are not functioning at 100 percent prior to COVID-19. Even though many are able to work, numerous people are still facing job cuts, a decrease in work hours, or a loss of benefits. Those that have lost their jobs completely are now spending hours online or on the phone trying to do the necessary paperwork to get the federal and state benefits that they are entitled to. What does this mean for those that are paying and those that are receiving child support?
If your child support order does not include the language stating that the child support payments can be withheld from unemployment insurance benefits or the noncustodial parent has not agreed in writing that the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) can withhold court-ordered child support. If this language does not exist in your court order or if the noncustodial parent will not agree, you must request to have the order modified in order to receive any child support payments from the unemployment benefits. Check out one of my past blogs about modifications to court orders. However, this by no means lets the noncustodial parent off the hook for not paying child support, he or she is still responsible for the child support regardless of whether DWS withholds the child support or not.
The flip side to this is what if the noncustodial parent wants to financially support the child but either does not have enough income coming in or worse, none at all. It’s like my grandma used to say, “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip!” meaning if there is no money coming in because you can’t work due to the pandemic, then there is no money to pay out to anyone. Again, this is not to say you are relieved from financially supporting your child. It is a parent’s responsibility to financially support his or her child no matter what. When clients come to me with situations like this, I always advise them to try their very best to stay current with their court-ordered obligations. Also, to maintain good records of documentation proving your change in employment circumstances. If you are taken to court by the custodial parent, a judge will definitely want to see that you did everything you could to keep your financial obligation to your child before making any sort of modification.
If you are not receiving the court-ordered child support as you should, it may be necessary to take the noncustodial parent to court. Unfortunately, the capacity of the courts under current COVID restrictions is limited. If a client is in this situation, my advice is to keep track of all the funds that you have received with dates and amounts and the funds that are past due. Any other documentation you can gather is always recommended. This information can be used to show that the noncustodial parent is in contempt of court orders and allow for enforcement action to recover past-due support.
Side note: If you are responsible for child support and receiving the additional $600 from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), it is also eligible for child support payments to be deducted if the noncustodial parent has agreed that DWS can deduct child support payments from unemployment benefits or if the court order has the proper language speaking of such.
Times are tough and even tougher if you are dealing with child support issues. Kevin Hickey Law Partners understands the sensitive nature as well as urgency in settling matters such as child support. No one ever wants to worry about how they are going to financially take care of their child. If you only get one thing from this blog, it is to remember documentation, documentation, documentation. I can’t say it enough, the better your documentation and record-keeping the better off you will be if you do have to go to court. Call today to and we will work together to come up with a solution to help you get the child support your child deserves.