The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging for over a year, and people in the Reading, PA area are hurting. Unemployment remains high, and virtual school days mean even parents who still have jobs have seen their productivity plummet as they struggle to keep their kids on a task or entertained. In normal times, significant, lasting changes to one’s earning ability could trigger a change in child support payments. This leaves many parents wondering if they should ask for a COVID adjustment to their child support payments.
What Happens Normally?
If you have a court order requiring you to pay child support, you are obligated to keep paying even if you lose your job or become ill or disabled. The only way you can reduce your payments is by getting the Pennsylvania courts to modify your support order.
It is possible to seek a child support modification if you have a significant change of circumstances that will last for a substantial period of time. However, judges are hesitant to make changes to child support agreements because tinkering with an order can cause a lot of drama if the split was not amicable, or one party remains bitter about the amount of support they pay or receive.
Evidence demonstrating your financial circumstances have significantly changed, and that the change is not temporary is critical. Even though it is possible to seek a modification without the help of a lawyer, many parents find working with an experienced attorney helpful because getting the right evidence before the judge is so important.
What’s Happening Now?
The uncertain nature of the pandemic means courts have been slow to adjust normal child support modification practices to fit the current crisis. It remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, and how quickly things will go back to some semblance of normal post-pandemic, so the courts are hesitant to make big changes.
There is also a fear that granting COVID adjustments will lead to a crush of people asking for modifications based on their (hopefully) temporary drop in income. These same people would then need to get another adjustment when circumstances improve. A potential crush of modification seekers makes court administrators nervous.
That being said, it is not impossible to seek a COVID-based modification if you truly are in need. The key is providing the evidence to demonstrate its necessity, just as you would do if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.
What Happens While You Wait?
If you cannot make your child support payments due to a COVID-related loss of income, take action as quickly as possible. Skipping payments could hurt your child and get you into a lot of legal trouble.
The Pennsylvania Child Support Program (CSP) treats non-payment of child support as a serious issue. Failure to pay could lead to:
- A court order of civil contempt
- Jail time up to six months
- A fine of up to $500, on top of the owed child support
- Probation up to six months
The CSP can also seize your bank accounts, and any personal injury or Worker’s Compensation awards you receive. They can intercept your state and federal income tax returns and lottery winnings. They can suspend your driver’s license, your professional license (medical, law, or other professional licenses), and your recreational licenses (hunting and fishing).
The CSP can put a lien against your real estate, have your passport denied, and report you to the credit bureaus. They can also publish your name in the newspaper as a parent who is delinquent in the payment of child support.
Get Help From An Experienced Child Support Attorney Here In Reading
The Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr is here to help if you are in financial distress and need to modify your child support payments. Whether your financial issues are COVID-related or not, we can help you make the case for a change. Please contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.