How COVID-19 is Impacting California Child Support Cases

In March of 2020, President Donald Trump declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was a national emergency. Since then, lawmakers and state health departments have taken sweeping action to slow the spread of the virus.

Schools have been closed. Concerts and sporting events have been canceled, and “non-essential” businesses have been directed to close their doors. In effect, millions of employees have been forced out of work, but that’s not all. Many small business owners are feeling the sting too.

Indeed, COVID-19 has impacted virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives and child support is no exception. Many paying parents have lost their jobs and as their reserves run out, they can’t afford their payments. And as for receiving parents who rely on child support to make ends meet every month, the sudden stop in payments is having a significant financial impact on them as well.

Advice for Paying Parents

While child support has a lot to do with how much a parent earns, many paying parents have a misconception about unemployment. They mistakenly believe that if they lose their job, they don’t have to pay child support and that’s not the case.

Parents are legally responsible for supporting their children; that does not change if they are unemployed, disabled, incarcerated, terminally, or mentally ill. The only way a parent is off the hook for child support is if their parental rights are terminated by a court.

If you lost your job because of the pandemic and you skip payments, eventually the local child support agency will start taking action against you. Anyone or more of the following can occur:

  • You can lose your economic stimulus check
  • Your U.S. passport can be denied
  • Your driver’s license can be suspended
  • Liens can be placed on any real estate you own
  • Your tax refund can be taken
  • Your professional and recreational licenses can be suspended
  • The funds in your bank accounts can be seized (including joint accounts)
  • Negative credit reporting

“What do I do if I can’t pay my child support because of unemployment?” Our advice is to contact us immediately to start working on a petition for a downward modification. Since child support is NOT retroactive, there is no way the court can go back from the date you lost your job and adjust what you owe. That being said, it’s important to take action immediately so the arrears and interest don’t continue to accrue based on your old earnings.