Life is changed a great deal for all of us since the beginning of his pandemic. Everything from how we educate our children, go to work, go to church, and even go to the grocery store have all been impacted by changes brought about by the coronavirus. Some of these changes are related to the virus itself add legitimate concerns over an illness. Still, our government has brought other changes in response to fears of flattening the curve and minimizing the exposure of hospitals during this time. Whatever the cause of these changes, it was evident that changes had occurred.
If you are involved in a Texas family law case, then you know that change can sometimes be a jarring thing to experience. I say this because persons going through family law cases are used to living on a fairly set schedule. Whether your family completed their family law case years ago or are just completing yours now, it is part and parcel of a family law case. You cannot make up your changes to a schedule unless you have permission and approval from the other parent.
This is done to prevent families from sliding into situations where children do not have set schedules for consistency and stability. If yours was a divorce that did not involve children and mainly had to do with the division of property and assets, then this blog post probably isn't for you. The reason is that your life, divided at the property and debts, has more or less taken out of the rhythm of single adulthood. Unless you are paying or receiving spousal maintenance or contractual alimony after the divorce, your life as a divorced man or woman can be live pretty free from constraints play sonnet by play Texas family court.
This is not true for persons and families that have gone through family law cases who have children. If you have children, then you know how difficult and challenging a divorce can be for your family. Dividing up property in a divorce is one thing, but dividing up parenting time with children is entirely different. The inability to spend time with your children whenever you want is probably the most significant change that families experience due to a divorce.
For the most part, after a divorce, families begin to live on a schedule established by their final decree of divorce. Parents have specified periods of possession as laid out in their last orders from the judge. Whether you are the primary conservator of your children or a possessory conservator who has Visitation rights and pays child support, you can come to expect that you will have possession of your children at certain times and for specific periods. This is good for long-term planning and also for the stability of your child's life.
How do family court orders interact with the age of coronavirus?
Now that we have established that families who have completed divorce cases live under court orders after the divorce, we should talk about the impact of this pandemic on those core quarters. The value of a court order and its effectiveness are measured not during good times but rather during bad times. For example, when your job is going well, and your family is healthy, then getting along with one another, there isn't much to be said regarding your court orders. Your family follows the orders in exchange for possession of your children at the predetermined times and locations and then moves on with your lives.
What happens when circumstances beyond your control intervene in your lives and begin to wreak havoc with your job, your health, or with anything else related to you and your family? Do the court orders hold up as well during bad times as they did during the good times? That is the subject which I would like to discuss with you today. Specifically, I'm interested in discussing with you what happens with child support during times like these. Does your obligation to pay child support change during the Coronavirus pandemic?
What do you need to know about child support?
Before we jump in and start to discuss child support related to the coronavirus, we should go over what child support is and why it is essential. Child support alert but their chill contributions made by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent for the benefit of children. Let's assume that you and your spouse were married for 15 years before getting divorced. In the course of those 15 years, you and your spouse had three kids. Last fall, you filed for divorce from your spouse, and the judge granted that divorce in February of 2020. No more than a month after having your divorce finalized, the coronavirus hit, and everyone's lives seemed to change dramatically.
In your court orders, you are ordered to pay $1500 per month to your ex-spouse in child support. This $1500 per month is supposed to go towards the care and support of your children. Child support is not intended to act as a way for your child to continue living the lifestyle they have been accustomed to. Instead, child support is merely a way for a non-custodial parent like yourself who had every child much less than the custodial parent to even up the costs of raising a child.
You were able to make your first child support payment in March without an issue. The way that child support was set up in your case made it so simple that you didn't even know the money was paid to your ex-spouse its due date. How is this possible? Many persons who were going through a divorce sign a wage withholding order before the divorce conclusion.
A wage withholding order does exactly what you would expect it to do. The judge signed the wage withholding order and sent it to your employer, which orders your employer to withhold a certain amount of money from your check each month. The withheld amount of money is then sent to the Child Support division of the attorney general's office. From there, the attorney general's office will send payment to your child's other parent. You can think about this wage withholding order as sort of like an automatic bill payment that you have set up 3A utility company or three-year bank.
The nice part about this whole setup is that both you and your child's custodial parent are protected. Your child's other parent is covered in that they will not need to stress out each month about whether or not you will allow your shot support to be paid. Suppose you keep everyone up to date on your employer and make sure to follow up. If any changes in your employment occur, there should not be any issues with getting your child support paid in full at the beginning of each month. This is nice for your child, your co-parent, and you.
How will this setup work be put to the test when a disruption occurs in your income and you cannot pay your child support as stated in your child support orders. It happens every so often that we lose a job for whatever reason and stagnate our financial lives. You may be able to go out and find a new job that pays you equally well right away. The motivation brought about by my bills and child support can be just what a person needs to go out there and find a job that suits him are her great.
On the other hand, it could be that she struggled to find work that paid as well or was better than her past job. It could also be true that you are forced to take on multiple part-time jobs to pay the bills. If these part-time jobs do not spend nearly as well as your former job, you will likely be in a position where the child support obligation that you have at the beginning of each month becomes more and more difficult to pay as the months go on. Many of us do not have much in the way of savings, and therefore a one or even two-month layoff from work can be disastrous.
The impact of coronavirus on Texas child support obligations
If you lost your job due to coronavirus shut down, you could count yourself among the large group of Americans who will find themselves in that position. Even though much of the economy is now opened back up after the initial shutdowns, likely, you were not able to find work immediately after losing your job. In that time, you would have had to have relied upon your savings to help get by. What happens when your savings run out? Do you still have to pay your child support?
I can tell you without reservation that just because you lost your income due to the coronavirus, you still have a child support obligation to attend to. Yes, the coronavirus is a never-before-seen scenario that almost every living person is never had to go through. However, if you read the fine print contained in your divorce papers, you will probably not see any provisions that allow for stopping child support payments if a viral pandemic breaks out. In other words, you still should pay child support on time and info even during the coronavirus pandemic.
This is true unless and until you go before a family court judge and have your current chance for obligation modified. A child support modification must follow the same guidelines as a modification for anything contained in a recent court order. A judge must find that a material and substantial change has occurred for you, your child or your co-parent to grant your request. This is the same standard utilized for a modification case in any circumstances and can be difficult to reach depending on your particular case.
Before you can get your modification in front of a judge, you should do two things. 1st, you should address this issue directly with your Co-parent. It may be that here she will allow you to make partial or even no payment without suffering any consequences until you can find a new job. Many times, parties work out payment plans during this time between themselves. This helps two parties that would prefer not to go to court over this matter to work out an agreement that allows their child still to receive child support during an otherwise difficult period.
The next thing you should do is to contact the office of the attorney general. The attorney general may be able to file a modification lawsuit based on your circumstances. However, this is not the best written to go down because the attorney general does not represent you or the other parent but rather represents the state of Texas and its effort to make sure that child support is administered correctly. The state has an interest in keeping your child off of government assistance if that can be helped. The proper payment of child support is a big key to that goal. It also may take much longer for your case to get before the judge if you rely on the attorney general's office to do this work for you.
Questions about Texas family law during the Coronavirus pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan stands ready to assist you and your family during this time or any other. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in our office, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way to learn about the law and how it relates to your particular circumstances. Please get in touch with us today to learn more.