Our next normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic is causing some to reconsider their financial obligations. For those who have not been able to work because of layoffs or furloughing, health issues, or because of the current shelter in place rules, some are questioning if their financial responsibilities to a spouse or former spouse must remain at the same level. We have received numerous questions about whether payments can be altered if income or other financial issues have significantly changed. Indeed, loss of work and hence loss of income would be a “material change” in circumstances that a court would normally consider in decreasing child and spousal support obligations. This does not necessarily mean the supporter may simply stop paying support and that there will be no negative repercussions for the same.
Discussion with counsel should be had to plan for appropriate action. This may include an immediate filing of a request with the court to decrease or zero out support to preserve retroactivity, even though the court is closed. This effectively starts the process of ascertaining if it is possible to obtain an appropriate decrease in support pending the court hearing.
Co-Parenting is especially challenging at this time considering the need to balance visitation with health risks and compliance with federal and local rules regarding “social distancing”. The courts in each of the Southern California Counties (Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego) often take differing views and give different treatment to one parent’s interference of the other parent’s visitation due to “Social Distancing” concerns. While one court may severely sanction a parent for interfering with the other parent’s visitation, another court may simply provide make-up time. Also an important consideration, is the fact that younger children are especially susceptible to negative impacts from loss of contact with a parent and interruption to their routine visitation. Many families have worked out sustainable strategies to co-parent during this time through honest and frank communication.
When to Seek Help
At Buncher Family Law we have been successfully helping families navigate these new issues. When faced with escalating tensions and confusion for children, our attorneys are experienced and ready to assist in resolving potential conflicts.