The Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the lives of citizens all across the world.
For many of us, the crisis has resulted in economic damages such as lay-offs, or, in some cases, a complete loss of income. This is, understandably, an incredibly stressful situation, generating colossal concern, especially if you have a family or young children to support.
With so many people facing financial hardship, it is important that you fully understand the impact this situation may have on your existing responsibilities. Support orders have recently come under the microscope, with many payors feeling concerned about their ability to continue to pay alimony, spousal, and child support.
What Is The Situation?
On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the identification of the first two positive cases of the virus in the state. In response to the crisis, the state of Michigan entered an official state of emergency, with Governor Whitmer implementing Executive Order 2020-21 on the same day. The order states that there is a “temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.”
Overnight, thousands of businesses closed their doors, with no clear path ahead, or firm timeline for reopening. Jobs were lost, and millions of workers across the country have found themselves facing an uncertain financial future.
How Does This Impact Support Orders?
At the present time, the Michigan Supreme Court has declared that all current support orders will remain in place, with no automatic alterations or adjustments. Therefore, if you are required to pay child support per court order, you will still be expected to make those payments.
If you are not paying your child support obligation, you will be in arrears on the order, and you will owe the past due amount, called “arrearages.” You will then owe this money, and the Friend of the Court will add a monthly amount in addition to your regular child support payment to pay towards these arrearages. The key issue here is the uncertainty of the future; while governments across the world are setting plans and timeframes into motion, the reality is that a considerable number of industries will find themselves suffering, leaving workers facing redundancies and unemployment.
What Can You Do?
As a rule, the Family Support Act requires child support orders to be reviewed at least once every three years by the Friend of the Court offices. This allows any changes to be considered, reasonable adjustments to be made, and ensure that the order remains fair and consistent. The Act does, however, allow more frequent reviews to be carried out if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as those faced by millions of workers at the present time.
If you are facing a decrease in income, or a total loss in income, you need to file a motion to reduce child support with the court immediately. You have a right to ask for a decrease in child support so long as the difference between the current amount and the requested new amount is at least 10% or greater, or $50 or more. So if you are paying $500 per month, a request would need to result in you paying less than $450 per month for your request to be considered. If the result is less than that, the court will deny your request/motion.
If you have any concerns over your abilities to meet your financial obligations, the first step is to get informed. Depending on your county, there may be different restrictions, procedures, and limitations, so it is important to check the relevant Friend of the Court website for your area. This site will include advice on the process of filing modification motions, as well as any specific information which may be relevant to your county. If you want to see what your child support number should be, you can contact the attorneys at ADAM and we can calculate projected support numbers for you.
The current crisis means that most courts are currently shelving any cases which are not considered emergency filings. It is important to note, however, that filings are still being processed. Filing your motion early on will help to preserve the date, allowing for retroactive modification when your case is processed – this could be a big help if you find yourself facing an uncertain future. This means that if you file your motion June 1st, but it takes until August for the court to give you a final ruling, the court may then decrease your child support back to June 1st. So it is important to file the motion to reduce child support right away and not wait. If you wait, the court cannot modify your child support to PRIOR to when you filed a request with the court.
If possible, an agreement should be reached between you and your ex, allowing for temporary adjustments to be made to the amount stated in the order. If such an agreement can be reached amicably, the modifications must be put into writing, and a revised Uniform Child Support Order must be submitted to the court for entry. This will allow you temporary breathing space while ensuring that your financial responsibilities and obligations are met in full.
In some cases, an amicable agreement between the two parties may not be possible. If this is the case, and you can no longer pay the court ordered amount, then you must file a motion to modify your support order with the court.
Your Next Steps
When it comes to support orders, action is essential. Avoiding the issue will simply allow arrears to accrue on your order for every missed payment, and this could result in a huge bill to tackle once your affairs return to normal.
Here at ADAM, we have a wealth of experience in all aspects of family law, and are here to help. Our experienced team of attorneys will work with you to work out and calculate your affordability, liaise with the payee to reach an amicable agreement, prepare and file modification motions, and guide you through a very challenging period.
Working together, we can help to create a temporary modification which allows all parties to meet their financial obligations, receive the financial support they need, and help everyone to navigate their way through an unprecedented situation. Get in touch today for an evaluation, and allow our team of attorneys to advise you on the best next steps for your individual circumstances.