Yes. Either parent can ask the court to change or modify an order to pay child support if the circumstances of either parent change after the order is issued. Permanently losing your job due to a global pandemic should qualify as a change in circumstance in Florida family law courts.
Still, before seeking help from the court, you should see if you qualify for financial assistance and talk to your child’s other parent. If you and your co-parent agree on a change outside of court, the judge may be able to turn your agreement into a new child support order.
Whatever you do, never stop paying child support without a modification, as you could start to accrue child support arrears and face enforcement actions such as contempt of court and jail time. If you cannot afford your child support payment due to Covid-19-related job loss, pay as much as you can, as this attempt will present favorably in court.
Seek Financial Assistance
Coronavirus relief is available at the state and federal levels. You should already have received one or more federal stimulus checks, and many states have increased their unemployment benefits during this unprecedented time. If you have been laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis, you are likely eligible for unemployment benefits. You can use this money to pay child support.
Keep in mind, if you owe money for unpaid child support, your stimulus payments may be intercepted and reduced by the amount you owe.
Look for a Job
Even if you ask the court to modify your child support order, you must prove that you are looking for a job. While the courts understand it may be harder than usual to find a job during the Covid-19 pandemic, you still have to show that you have made a good-faith effort to find employment. Keep track of your applications and interviews and print copies of any emails you exchange with potential employers.
If you are planning on filing a petition with the court, you should also organize information about your income or lack of income, your expenses, and any debts you may be dealing with. Remember, the court will consider your earning potential and any assets or benefits you may have, so you need to show how your job loss has impacted you and how difficult it is for you to keep up with bills and everyday expenses.
Talk to Your Co-Parent
You should let your co-parent know about your situation as soon as you lose your job. Your child’s other parent may be understanding and agree to temporarily reduce or suspend payments until you find a new job. If your co-parent agrees to any kind of alternate arrangement, modifying your child support order in court will be that much easier.
Speaking with your co-parent and paying as much as you are able will also make a good impression in family court and show your commitment to your child and your child support obligation.
File a Request to Change a Support Order
Every court has different rules for proceedings during Covid-19, so you should speak to an attorney before filing a request to change your child support order. The courts are overwhelmed and have a backlog, so it is in your best interest to come to an agreement with your co-parent before entering into a courtroom dispute over child support. This is especially true because many courts are conducting hearings over the phone or video, which are difficult venues to resolve such a sensitive family disagreement.
That being said, do not hesitate to ask for a modification as soon as you need one, and be prepared to show a substantial, permanent, and involuntary change in any Florida family law court you file within. Although a loss of employment does not normally qualify as a permanent change, the judge may consider the state of the economy as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and unemployment lasting 6 months or more can qualify as a substantial change in your life.
The court may also approve any modification you and your co-parent agree on, even if the relief is only temporary.
Get Legal Help
Whether you want help dealing with a co-parent in a professional way, or you need to go to court for a change in your child support order, The Law Office of Paulette Hamilton, P.A. will treat your family like our own. Our practice is based on honesty, integrity, and results, and we are ready to provide compassionate and realistic advice during this difficult time.
If you have lost your job because of Covid-19, and you want to modify your child support order, do not hesitate to call us at (407) 624-5344 or contact us online today.