3 Things to Know About Income Loss and Child or Spousal Support
Income impacted by COVID-19? Determine if you are able to reduce child support or spousal maintenance payments
2020 has been the epitome of building an airplane in the air. From juggling shifting work schedules, to maneuvering through job loss, to accommodating care changes and alternative education arrangements - all paired with a constant underlying reality of unknown - virtually all families have endured a tremendous amount of stress and unrest in the past six months.
As cited in a new Pew Research Center survey, financial hardships since the COVID-19 pandemic began are widespread, including: one-in-four adults have had trouble paying bills, one third have used savings or retirement funds to get by and one-in-six have either borrowed money from people they know or have received food from a food bank. According to the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy, the number of jobs in Wisconsin alone has reduced by 212,700 between February and September 2020.
On top of all of these challenges, families that are also navigating co-parenting, child support and/or spousal maintenance amidst the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic have extra layers of difficulty built in. No one is immune to this uncertainty, regardless of financial standing. For example, even actor Jeremy Renner (Marvel’s Avengers, The Hurt Locker, Mission Impossible) petitioned the court for adjustments to his child support agreements due to COVID-19 shut downs.
So, what do you do when you are out of work or your income has been reduced, jeopardizing your ability to meet current child support or spousal maintenance financial obligations? Here are three things to know.
Understand Your Child Support Obligations Per the Department of Children and Families of Wisconsin, you are required by law to report any change in job or income status to your child support agency. Because child support amounts can only be altered by a court, income and job losses do not automatically change or suspend your previously established child support order. In the event that your next child support payment is due before you receive your first Unemployment check, know that you are still responsible for making that payment, and you may be able to use this form to submit it.
Consider Your Options DCFW further advises that if you anticipate a job loss to surpass six to eight weeks, or affect your income in a substantial way, that you request that your child support agency have your court order reviewed for a change. You also have the right to file a motion yourself, directly with the court for review and can do so through the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the order is entered. Be prepared to demonstrate efforts to find employment, as well as documentation of your job change. There are several unemployment insurance options that you could be eligible for. If you have experienced a reduction in hours or wages, have been temporarily furloughed or permanently laid off, or your place of employment is closed as a result of an Executive Order or other shelter-in-place order, you could be eligible for 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits. In addition, as a result of an accepted grant application for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Lost Wages Assistance program, you could be eligible to receive an additional $300 per week if you have faced employment disruptions caused by COVID-19. Per the Department of Workforce Development, this payment is in addition to regular unemployment insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or Work-Share benefits.
Seek Out Resources Unprecedented times beget unprecedented challenges, but you don’t have to face them alone. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has a number of pandemic-specific resources compiled for parents. The Job Center of Wisconsin is also offering services remotely and highlighting jobs created by the economic impact of COVID-19.
No matter how many resources are available, navigating child support and spousal maintenance amidst job changes during a pandemic is a complex undertaking. If you have questions, our team of experienced family law attorneys is here to support you. Our Everson Law Firm office is open and ready to serve clients in Greater Green Bay and Northeast Wisconsin.