Unfortunately, the subject of job loss is one that is very relevant right now. What our government officials in Texas and what most officials from around the country implemented at the outset of the coronavirus were various stay at home orders. These orders were intended to isolate us from one another in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Whether or not this was the right decision is not relevant to today's blog post. What is relevant, however, is that many people in our area lost their jobs as a result of these stay at home orders.
Part and parcel with the state home orders were the shutdown of businesses who were non-essential. Nonessential businesses could not open up their doors to employees and with that we saw many folks go without pay for long stretches of time. If you were able to work from home this was not as much of an issue, although the long-term effects of remote working in certain areas of the economy have not yet been seen in my opinion. What we need to know for the purposes of this blog post is that many people did not have the option to work from home rather than to go to the workplace in an income.
If you have lost your job as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns, then today's blog post is for you. I can imagine that right now is a pretty unsettling time for you and your family. Hopefully you have an idea of where and when you are going to land your next job. If you are still looking for a new job, then hopefully the reopening of the economy has led to more opportunities for you in your old line of work or in a new line of work that can be fulfilling for you. Whatever position you currently find yourself in just know that you and your family are not alone when it comes to job loss.
What is the relationship between your income and child support?
I think this is the most logical place to start our discussion on job loss and child support in the age of the coronavirus. On a basic level child support is paid by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent as a means of ensuring that your child's basic needs are met. Given that a non-custodial parent is in possession of a child much less frequently than is a custodial parent it is intended that these payments more or less equalize the burden of raising a child from a financial perspective.
Rather than having parents like you and your Co parent negotiate on a regular basis over the amount of child support to be paid The state of Texas has set up a guideline level of support that covers just about any type of family and any amount of income that you may earn. At its most basic, child support is paid as a percentage of your net monthly income. The percentage relates to the number of children that you are responsible for who are before the court. The income is determined by mostly straightforward means of calculation when you add salary, wages, commissions, disability benefits and things like investment dividends.
The Texas family code contains guideline levels of child support for families. For the most part cover a family going through a family law case can expect to have these guideline levels of support implemented. Of course, if you and your co-parent are able to negotiate over other ways to calculate child support you may do so. However, most people leave it up to the family code then don't bother negotiating too much on this subject. However, if your income is particularly high or if you have many children who are before the court then this may be an avenue that you want to explore a little further.
Regardless of how you in your family negotiated here child support it is obvious that there is a relationship between your income and your ability to pay child support. This is no different than your ability to pay your mortgage or utility bills in relation to your earned income. You don't need me to tell you that your life can come to a complete stop when you lose your job due to the importance of that job in the income earned at that place of employment. When you lose your job due to the coronavirus or for any other reason then there are new factors at play in your post family court life.
Losing your job can be a real punch to the gut but you do not have time to sit around and mope. You need to take action and be proactive because if you fail to do so then you and your child can both suffer the consequences for this inaction. Losing your job almost necessarily means losing the income you need to pay child support. You may be in a position where you had money saved for emergencies but even if this is true your savings cannot last forever. You need to make decisions almost immediately about what you will do with your child support situation once you find out that you are losing your job.
For one, you should notify your Co parent about your job was situation. I understand that this is probably the last conversation that you want to have right now, but it is important for you to be able to keep him or her in the loop for a number of reasons. Number one, he or she depends in part on that child support to be able to pay bills associated with your child. Suddenly removing that stream of income on a monthly basis can be jarring for a family. For this reason, you should keep him or her informed about your job loss so that alternative means can be taken to ensure that bills are paid at the beginning of the following month.
The other reason why you should keep your Co parent informed about your job loss is that if he or she wanted to them could file an enforcement lawsuit against you in family court. An enforcement lawsuit seeks to enforce the terms of a prior court order if a violation of that order were to have occurred. In this case, the violation of the court order would have been your missed or partial child support payment. Typically, a lawsuit of this sort will not be filed immediately after one miss payment, but you still do not want to failed to keep him or her in the loop as far as these payments are concerned.
What is a child support enforcement lawsuit?
An enforcement lawsuit is no joking matter. Many people who go through a divorce do not take the process seriously in are only partially engaged in the process. These folks have a general knowledge that they are getting a divorce is that there are topics associated with child support they know their subjects in play in that divorce. However, because there is only so much that can be done during a divorce many people did not feel that it is important that they provide the case with their full, undivided attention.
An enforcement lawsuit, especially in regard to child support, is not like this. A post-divorce lawsuit like a child support enforcement case can be extremely taxing on an emotional and financial level. For one, if you have failed to make your child support payment as ordered then you have placed your Co parent in a bad position financially. When people struggle to pay bills words simply face uncertain economic times they typically do not act rationally or with much patience. You may find that your one miss payment of child support completely alters the nature of your relationship and your co-parent.
The trouble with an enforcement lawsuit in regarding child support is that the potential penalties for your having not paid your child support as ordered can be fairly significant. In the child support lawsuit itself, your Co parent would need to allege specific violations of the court order. This means laying out the date that a child support payment was supposed to be paid it was missed, the specific amount of child support that needed to have been paid in a cumulative total of child support payments that have not been paid despite court orders to the contrary.
The penalties for not paying child support can be fairly significant. There are factors within each case that are important to take note of , such as the frequency with which child support payments are missed , the total dollar amount of child support payments missed and any actions that you took in the intervening periods of time to make good on your obligation. If you are found to have violated the court order regarding child support you can expect to be fined by the court for each violation, be ordered to pay your Co parents attorney’s fees and even suffer an additional punishment of jail time.
Jail time as a punishment for missed child support payments
You read that correctly. As a result of your having missed child support payments it is possible for a judge to order that you go to jail. The maximum jail time sentence that can be ordered in your case is 6 months or 180 days. Many times, you can be placed on deferred adjudication or probation rather than serving time in jail. However, this means that you would have to regularly meet with a probation officer or other County official on a regular basis to ensure that you are taking steps to pay your child support.
It is crucial that you have an attorney to represent you at the time a child support enforcement lawsuit is filed against you. If you're co-parent does request jail time as a possible punishment for your having failed to pay child support due to your job loss the court will appoint you with an attorney even if you cannot afford one. The reason is once jail time enters the picture and enforcement case becomes a quasi-criminal law case where you would have the right to be appointed an attorney if you cannot afford one.
What you should do if you do lose your job due to the coronavirus
as I mentioned earlier in today's blog post you do not have time to sit and feel sorry for yourself if you lose your job and you have a child support obligation. Beyond informing your Co parent of this development as well as the office of the attorney general, you should begin to look for new employment immediately. This does not mean that you should be looking for a job that is exactly like your old job and pays just as well. You may be in a position where you are able to locate substitute employment in the short term that while it is not exactly what you want to do with your life it would help you to pay your bills and stay current on your child support during these tough times.
Once you have established a firmer footing in the job market then you would be able to go out and look for employment that more coincides with your education or experience. During this time period I would document any efforts you have made to work with the office of the attorney general or your Co parent on making partial payments during the time you were looking for employment. Doing so could potentially show a judge that you have been working on alternative methods to keep current on your obligation and that you are not trying to purposely avoid any obligations to pay support.
Questions regarding child support and family law in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material shared with you today regarding child support then I would recommend you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days per week to meet with you in person, over the phone and via video about your particular circumstances. Our attorneys take a great deal of pride in serving our neighbors in the family law courts of Southeast Texas and we would be honored to do the same for you and your family.