Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What children’s expenses are covered by child support?”
For all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic came out of the blue unexpectedly. As a result, the entire nation is dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic. Skyrocketing unemployment, business closures, and government-mandated stay-at-home orders may affect obligor parents’ ability to make payments for the support of their children.
Unemployment benefits claims in North Carolina have already surpassed 700,000. Of those, many claimants are divorced parents who were ordered to pay child support and are no longer able to maintain their support obligation due to the coronavirus crisis.
In light of this, many obligor parents are wondering, “Can I be found in contempt if I cannot afford child support payments during the pandemic?”
COVID-19: Can You be Found in Contempt for Failing to Pay Child Support?
Obligor parents can be found in contempt for failing to pay child support or complying with any other court order only if a judge can prove that the parent’s behavior was “willful.”
If you can provide reasonable justification for your failure to make child support payments, your behavior will most likely not be considered “willful.” The entire country is currently facing an unprecedented situation, and most Americans are coping with the negative economic impact of the pandemic, which caused many people to lose their jobs.
Thus, if you were laid off, furloughed, or lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is unlikely that the court will find you in contempt for not paying child support. However, that does not mean that you can stop making child support payments.
Previously, we discussed whether obligor parents can lower their child support payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, anyone who was ordered to pay support must make good-faith efforts to pay the ordered amount during these trying times. This includes tapping into your savings, splitting payments into smaller portions, and re-evaluating your spending and budget.
Should You File a Contempt Case if the Obligor Parent is Not Making Payments During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
If you are the custodial parent dependent on child support payments and the other parent has not been making payments during the coronavirus pandemic, you may be considering filing a contempt case.
Unfortunately, the obligor’s inability to pay may be beyond his or her control as employment prospects remain limited – and non-existent for some – during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to stop paying child support. However, your contempt motion against the obligor parent may not succeed if they were unable to make these payments due to unemployment or reduction in income.
As mentioned earlier, the non-custodial parent who was ordered to support the child financially can be found in contempt only if their non-payment is considered “willful.” Also, even if you choose to proceed with the contempt motion right now, the courts will most likely not hear your case until after the pandemic is over when courts resume their regular operations, which could take weeks or months.
Thus, you may want to work out a mutually beneficial payment plan with the obligor parent so that he or she can get caught up on payments. You may need a Charlotte child support attorney to facilitate your conversation with the other parent. Also, read our blog about whether you can withhold child visitation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a consultation. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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