In light of the current economic conditions brought on by the Coronavirus 2019 Disease (COVID-19) resulting in the Executive Order N-25-20 causing mass layoffs, terminations, and/or furloughs, any person with current stipulations or orders to pay Child Support and/or Spousal Support, issued by in the State of California, who has been economically impacted resulting in a reduction or loss of income must consider reviewing those orders and seeking changes. The purpose of this article is to provide basic information and guidance to consider as we navigate these strange days. As a full disclaimer, this is not intended to be specific legal advice given for your individual case, but rather to narrowly address a common question what to do about support obligations if you’ve lost your job or have reduced hours.
First, a common sense approach must be considered. Reaching out to the party receiving support, sharing information and reaching a personal temporary adjustment may be easiest and best. Communication and cooperation should be encouraged. Also, in light of the current court closures, except for emergency matters, means this may be the quickest and easiest solution.
Second, knowing that not everyone will cooperate, it may be in your best interest to file a Request for Orders (RFO) requesting a modification of Child Support and/or Spousal Support. In order to do so, you will need to document your change of income. Therefore, you should get and keep all written notifications of layoffs, terminations, and/or furloughs, date specific, and your “pink slip” and all paperwork related to seeking and receiving any unemployment benefits. Be prepared to file a new Income & Expense Declaration (I&E).
To be very clear, there is no need to do any of this if you are still earning the same income as you were when your current support orders were established.
On the other hand, if you have lost your job or your hours/income has been reduced, you may be entitled to a temporary or permanent order modifying your existing support orders.
To be completely transparent, we are definitely in unchartered territory, and do not wish to advise anyone to circumvent or take actions effectively shirking their responsibility to support their minor children or comply with any current support orders. However, it may be advisable to consider if you need to file an RFO and I&E as soon as you are economically impacted to preserve their right to modification of support orders retroactively to the first possible. We expect several months before we can get the courts open and we can get hearing dates, but at least you will preserve the right to review back in time to the filing date.
In some cases it may not make any sense to file a motion to modify support at all. You should consult with an attorney, in your specific county, as circumstances may differ, county by county. Even so, you can use the information noted above that you have already collected in discussions with your attorney to determine whether this is the best course of action for you. Your attorney will tell you if it does not make financial sense to modify your support order at this time.
The Coronavirus 2019 Disease (COVID-19) has certainly affected families throughout the United States in a number of ways. More recently, Californians have been affected by Executive Order N-25-20 (“shelter in place” for the entire state) that went into effect on or about March 19, 2020. The purpose of this article is to provide basic information and guidance to consider as we navigate these strange days. As a full disclaimer, this is not intended to be specific legal advice given for your individual case, but rather to narrowly address a common question being asked in certain custody/visitation cases, e.g., do we follow our current custody/visitation orders? The short answer is yes!
This is not the time to use this pandemic caused by the virus as an excuse to disobey current custody/visitation court orders. Nor is this the time to unilaterally decide what orders should be modified and or followed. If, however, you truly believe there are urgent circumstances warranting a modification to custody/visitation orders, the proper procedure is the same as before the Executive Order went into effect. You should contact your attorney for a proper analysis of your circumstances. Your attorney will direct you to the next steps if your attorney believes a modification is necessary or if exigent circumstances exist warranting a modification of your current custody/visitation orders at this time.
As a guideline only, if you believe your particular circumstances warrant a deviation from your current orders, you should first consider doing the following:
As a preface, if you have an emergency wherein your genuinely believe the health and or safety of your child(ren) is in jeopardy, you should call 911. The following is intended to be guidance in non-emergency circumstances as a general rule only.
The key is not to make unilateral decisions modifying current child custody/visitation court orders. If your attorney determines that a modification is necessary under your current circumstances, then it may be appropriate to file a motion with the court requesting a modification of your current court orders. In many, if not all counties, the County Superior Courts remain open to scheduling hearings involving emergency restraining orders, urgent child custody/visitation issues, and or contempt of court order proceedings in family law. Until told otherwise, it is also our belief that all courts continue to accept modification requests at this time whether deemed urgent or not. Further, it is our belief that court hearings are being scheduled based on the limited court resources and urgency of the matter or issues addressed in a party’s pleadings, and there is no reason to believe that all matters will not be set for a hearing at some date and time. Be advised, the court, in its discretion may reserve setting hearings until after shelter in place orders are lifted.
Blog by Fred Begun, Esq., senior counsel at Borton Petrini, LLP