How does the coronavirus affect my child support in Pennsylvania?

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 Many Pennsylvania child custody, child support and spousal support orders will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  The onset of coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced many states, including Pennsylvania, to issue stay-at-home orders, which in turn, has led businesses to shut their doors and employees to lose their jobs. Over the past two weeks, approximately 650,000 people in Pennsylvania have filed for unemployment. This number is only expected to rise as Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, declared on Monday his plan to extend the stay-at-home order to April 30, 2020.

Different life changing events can occur such as the loss of a job, a serious injury, new child, and more that require a modification of a PA child or spousal support order. The COVID-19 outbreak is one such event that our Pennsylvania family law firm believes may qualify certain individuals for a modification of child support or spousal –as parents and spouses may be experiencing financial hardships, lost wages, and as a result, may be unable to make their PA child and spousal support payments. If you are one of those individuals who has had a decrease in income because of the coronavirus, you should consider filing a petition for modification of your Pennsylvania child or spousal support order.

Who can file for a modification of a PA child or spousal support order?

Where a support order is in place, either party may file to modify a child support order at any time, when there is a material and substantial change in circumstance.

My friend filed to modify his/her child support order and the Judge denied it. Why was that? There may be many reasons why your friend’s petition to modify child support may have been denied. For instance, where a parent is ordered to pay child support, the decreased income must be involuntary. In other words, the decrease in income cannot be as a result of a decision by the obligor to quit his or her job to avoid child support payments, or willfully refusing to work. If your friend voluntarily or willfully lost his or her job, this may have been a reason for the Judge to deny the petition for modification of child support.

Due to the coronavirus, individuals who are laid off and required pursuant to a Pennsylvania court order to pay child or spousal support, may be entitled to a reduction of their PA child support and PA spousal support payments once a modification petition is filed with the Family Courts.

When should I file a modification of my PA support order?

By law, you are required to notify the Domestic Relation Office as well as the party receiving support of any material changes as soon as the change occurs. If you have recently been laid off or lost your job due to the coronavirus, you should file a petition to modify your PA support order immediately.

Why should you file immediately for a modification of your PA support order?

A request to modify a PA support order will be effective as of the day of filing even if your support modification hearing is not conducted for weeks thereafter. Therefore, failure to file for a modification, may cause you to owe for the missed child support payments, referred to as arrears, prior to your filing for modification. Our PA support lawyers can help you determine whether you have a qualifying life event that would require you to file for a modification of PA child and spousal support. We can also run PA child support calculations to determine what your new obligation might be.

 Can I agree to modify my PA support order with the other party?

While a verbal agreement to modify a PA support order might give you some temporary reprieve and seem like a short-term solution, it may cause a lot of problems down the road. If you are court ordered to make child or support payments in Pennsylvania, you are required by law to make your payments in full, unless directed otherwise by the court. This means that absent a PA court order, signed by a Judge, stating a new payment amount, you will be held accountable for the full amount you were court ordered to pay. You should be very cautious of a party verbally agreeing to accept a lesser amount as this will not absolve you accumulating an arrears balance for the full amount owed.

I am the recipient of PA child support or spousal support and I am not receiving the money owed under the order. What should I do?

Our Pennsylvania support lawyers understand that the current outbreak is posing a hardship for all, and while you may have been laid off or whether you are working from home, your bills do not stop. Some parents may be taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to stop payments, despite their duty of support. This may require the person entitled to receive support, to file for contempt of the PA support order  If you have a support order in place, and you are not receiving your payment due to the other party’s failure to make a payment, contact our support attorneys for help.

Talk to a PA support lawyer

This post is intended to provide general information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania child and spousal support orders. If you have further questions about child support in Pennsylvania, are interested in filing for child support, or if you have a child support order you would like to modify, contact our office at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C. to schedule your initial consultation by phone call our office at 412-281-9906.