Child Support Payments and Unemployment During the COVID-19 Pandemic: What to Know

COVID-19 is continuing to rage through the country and continues to wreak havoc on our economy. As a result, millions of people have suddenly found themselves out of work or had their hours or wages cut. For people with court orders to pay child support, this poses a problem. Unfortunately, that problem is not expected to go away anytime soon. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. No one quite knows when it will be over or when we will return to some semblance of normalcy.

To make matters worse, unemployment claims, especially in North Carolina, are showing very little signs of slowing down, and if you are one of the lucky ones to have your claim approved, you could still be waiting weeks before you see any unemployment compensation. All the while, your bills will continue piling up. To make matters worse, unemployment compensation is often paid out in a much lower amount than you were making when working. This lag in unemployment pay, coupled with the fact that unemployment compensation is often a small percentage of what you are used to making, makes it difficult for people to pay for things like groceries, rent or mortgage, gas, and electric bills, let alone court-ordered child support payments.

So, what does this mean for people who owe child support but have suddenly found themselves unemployed or underemployed?

Unemployed and Cannot Pay Child Support?

If you find yourself unemployed or underemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering what to do about your court-ordered child support payments. Fortunately, in North Carolina, a judge is unlikely to hold you in contempt if the refusal or inability to pay is not a willful decision. If you are having problems making child support payments, a North Carolina judge is likely to understand your hardship and may recognize that we are living in an unprecedented time. It is unlikely that you will be punished if you cannot make your payments. However, you should still try to pay whatever amount you can.

Despite your unemployment or underemployment, you should still try to work something out with the party to whom you owe child support. Even if you cannot make a full payment, you should try to work out a payment plan or commit to making at least partial payments. To make the process easier, take a look at your monthly budget. What can you cut back on? Do you have an abundance of luxury expenses, like multiple streaming options, food or drink delivery services or other redundances? Make a list of your most important expenses, like child support, rent/mortgage, and electric payments, and go from there. Remember, your child support payment should be viewed equally with expenses like your mortgage. Consider it a ‘must-pay’ monthly expense. If you are tight on cash, start with cutting out unnecessary expenses.

I am Owed Child Support: How Should I Handle Nonpayment?

What if you are the one waiting on child support payments? If the other party is unemployed due to COVID-19 and can no longer afford to make regular payments, what can you do? Do you have options? Can you file for contempt? You have to keep in mind, we are not living in normal times. COVID-19 is causing unprecedented consequences that no one planned for, including your former partner who was ordered to pay you child support. Because of the nature of the pandemic, and the economic devastation it has wrought, judges are unlikely to hold people in contempt if they are unemployed and cannot make their child support payments. That said, it may be a bit before you begin to see regular child support payments again.

If you choose to file a motion of contempt, you must also realize it may take a while for your case to be heard before the court. Why? Well, many courts are still operating at reduced capacity due to COVID-19. A better idea may be to pursue an alternative plan to get at least partial payments. Perhaps you and your former partner can work out a payment plan of sorts. Consulting an attorney skilled in handling child support cases like yours can help ensure you land on a fair agreement or plan.

If you recently lost your job to COVID-19 and are unable to make your court-ordered child support payment, contact the experienced team at Arnold & Smith, PLLC for help. We are passionate about helping people like you put together payment plans or other arrangements, at least until you get back on your feet. Contact our office with locations in Charlotte, Monroe and Mooresville at 704-370-2828 for a consultation.