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.
Fred Begun is Senior Counsel in our San Jose office of Borton Petrini, LLP specializing in Family Law and Estate Planning
Legal Disclaimer: Please be informed that legislation and laws are rapidly developing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the legal analysis that is being provided is based on the analysis of the current legislation and current agency guidance, as it stands at this moment. Additional legislation and/or changes to current legislation may impact the information being given herein. This article is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.