How COVID-19 is Affecting Non-Custodial Parents, Parenting Time, and Child Support

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Right now, many people are going to extremes to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. In some houses, healthcare workers are quarantining from the rest of their families to avoid spreading the virus, but in others, co-parents are fighting over restricted access.

Can My Ex Keep My Child at Home During Shelter Orders?

No, with some exceptions.

In most states, governors have clarified that shelter-in-place orders do not interfere with custody schedules. There are a few exceptions, like Tennessee, where the law allows the parent with primary physical custody to keep the children at home. Even in states where that isn’t allowed, however, the court can make exceptions for extenuating circumstances.

For instance, New Jersey’s shelter-in-place order doesn’t interfere with normal custody issues, but one dad secured temporary sole custody after telling the court his health and his children’s health would be at risk if his co-parent, Dr. Bertha Mayorquin, continued to see patients in person. Dr. Mayorquin was required to transition to tele-visits with her patients in order to keep seeing her kids. That doesn’t mean parents should assume a court would support them in keeping the kids away from a parent with an “essential” job.


 

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In Florida, Orange County Circuit Judge Vincent S. Chiu denied a mom’s petition for temporary sole custody this week, despite her ex working as an emergency responder and his live-in girlfriend working as an emergency room nurse. Judge Chiu found the father and his girlfriend both followed hospital protocols in keeping themselves safe and did not pose a big enough risk to disrupt the parent-child relationship.

Single dads who are fighting to see their kids should start by searching Google and other search engines with phrases like, “[state] shelter order child custody” or “[state] child custody during COVID-19.” Once you know your rights, it’s easier to talk with your co-parent about potential solutions or potential consequences for interfering with your parenting time.

Can I Stop Paying Child Support if I’m Jobless Due to the Pandemic?

No, but you might have options available.

Millions of workers are on temporary leave or have been fired. That doesn’t change their child support obligations. Just as in any change of circumstances, you’ll have to file for a support modification to stop or lower your child support payments.

However, certain states, like South Carolina, are not penalizing people for late payments at this time. That’s big news for a state where 10 percent of the inmate population is in jail due to child support debt. The order runs through May 10.

For parents who have independent child support agreements, it’s possible to come to a private arrangement to suspend or lower payments while you’re out of work. Just remember that if you don’t have your agreement signed off on by the court, which converts it to a court order, then the court will not uphold it and may find that you owe more (often way more) child support than what you privately agreed to with your ex.

Do I Have to Give My Ex Extra Money to Cover Increased Costs?

It depends.

With children home from school, they are eating more, using more water and electricity, and needing more educational supplies. Hoarding at grocery stores is also driving up food costs for many families. Your co-parent might ask for extra money to cover these extra expenses.

The legal answer starts by looking over your parenting agreement. Courts don’t typically increase child support payments during summer months or traditional school breaks. A court might modify a child support order based on these changes, but filing could take a while.

On the other hand, some parenting orders call for parents to split the costs of educational materials. Right now, a growing number of high-quality education programs are being offered for free through school systems and independent providers. Others are offering free trials through summer. Communicate early and often regarding your child’s needs, so you don’t wind up dealing with any nasty surprises.

Finally, this isn’t the time to pick nits, or to hold grudges – if your ex needs some extra help right now, and if you can afford it, then do it – in fact maybe even offer before they ask. It sets a good example for your kids, and can make you look like the good guy if you do end up back in court at some point.

How Will Child Support Affect Stimulus Payments and Unemployment?

Many states will reduce benefits for people owing child support.

The majority of states have confirmed that they will be reducing stimulus payments to repay child support debts. However, unlike your federal tax refund, your child support debts will not affect the stimulus payment received by a spouse or qualifying child.

That means if you owe thousands in back support, your spouse will still receive $1,200 in stimulus money and $500 for any dependent under age 17 who is listed on your tax return.

In most cases, child support managed through a state agency is automatically deducted from unemployment payments. Parents who are out of work may have access to expanded unemployment through state or federal programs. This is true for the recently unemployed, students, and those who’ve been looking for work for more than six months. Please contact your state workforce agency for more information.

These are strange, stressful, and trying times, which can compound situations that can be frustrating at the best of times. Hopefull this information helps a bit. If you have more information you’d like to add about what’s going in in your state, please put it in a comment below! Also, see our sister site for a comprehensive state-by-state list of coronavirus hotlines.

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5 thoughts on “How COVID-19 is Affecting Non-Custodial Parents, Parenting Time, and Child Support

  1. Its insane that they took my stimulus plus my wife’s stimulus! I do have arrears on an old child support order but my ex got a stimulus check. how is it legal to take my wife’s check for my debt? the system is rigged and corrupt they don’t give non custodial fathers a fair shake…My kids are Grown and I’m a grandfather and they are still punishing me! its really not fair!!! I’m trying to get help on this mess.

    1. The current system is *designed* to penalize you for making the “mistake” (however that is defined), of having children and then not staying with the other parent. It’s drastically flawed. I have a child with a woman who I didn’t stay with, and I’m penalized consistently as a result. I was paying $400/month in child support for the one child, even though my ex-wife has TWO of my children and gets that amount. She then hired a lawyer, went to court, and had them increase it to $900/month, which I can’t afford, especially now. The state attorney looked at me like I was speaking another language when I said I couldn’t afford it. He’s basically setting it up, so that I fail, of course. It has since caused my license to be suspended (which caused my car insurance to go up), damaged my credit (they report to the credit bureaus), and a slew of other crap I don’t even care to mention. I’ve considered ending it all on several occasions. I talk to the mother and she acts like I’m speaking another language as well. She’s fully aware of the situation too. So I just haven’t paid anything. And yeah it’ll affect me, but at this point, I’m just gonna let it play out how it does. She doesn’t realize it creates resentment that makes me not wanna be around her at all.

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