Life as we know it has been drastically altered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Business closures, illness, self-isolation protocols, lay-offs, and inability to work due to childcare responsibilities are causing financial uncertainty for many BC families, leaving many to wonder what this means for child support and spousal support obligations. Our BC family lawyer prepared this article to answer some of the top questions regarding suspending or reducing child support obligations during COVID-19.
What happens to our court order or written agreement?
If there is a court order or written agreement such as a Separation Agreement already in place with respect to child support and/or spousal support, it continues to apply. Child support payments and spousal support payments are not automatically suspended or reduced due to the coronavirus crisis, even if you are out of work or your income has gone down.
Can I stop paying support? What if my ex-partner stops paying support?
The amount of child support or spousal support set out in the court order or agreement is the amount that must be paid, unless the parties to the agreement make a new arrangement (for example, a temporary agreement that is effective until the pandemic ends) or an application is made for a court order to change the amount payable under an existing court order or agreement. If child support or spousal support payments are stopped or reduced, the amount owed will accrue as arrears paid unless and until the court order or agreement is changed.
Can I get a court order to reduce or enforce support obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic?
BC courts are suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but the courts will address emergency and urgent family matters. An application for a court order to change child support and/or spousal support obligations may be possible during the COVID-19 crisis, but only in very limited circumstances. If you are a support payor or support recipient, contact our BC support lawyer to discuss whether your matter would be considered urgent.
Can I pay less support? Should I accept lower support payments?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, BC courts are strongly encouraging parties to problem-solve before starting court proceedings, with the help of lawyers and mediators as needed. Bear in mind that if your matter is later reviewed by the court (e.g., to change an order or agreement given your new financial reality, or to deal with the payment of support arrears that occurred during the pandemic), the judge will consider conduct of the parties and may penalize a party for failure to use best efforts or to act in the best interests of the children. Here are some basic guidelines:
• If you are a support payor and you are truly not financially able to meet your support obligations, notice should be given to the support recipient if non-payment or payment of a lesser amount is expected to allow them to budget for themselves and the children, if applicable. You must follow any agreements or court orders that limit or describe how communication is to take place.
• Support payors should pay as much as they can, even if they can’t pay the full amount of support due and should also be prepared to show sources of income and a detailed monthly budget showing all financial obligations. Dependent spouses and children must be given priority in the budget.
• Whether you are a support payor or a support recipient, keep detailed financial records during the pandemic, including details of payments received and amounts owing.
How can a family lawyer help me deal with child support or spousal support issues during COVID-19?
Whether you are a support payor or a support recipient, an experienced family lawyer can help you negotiate an alternative support arrangement. You can get advice by way of telephone or videoconference consultations, and negotiations with the other party can also be done remotely. Issues to be addressed may include how arrears will be dealt with once the pandemic ends and the calculation of income on which to base child support or spousal support payments during the pandemic. The latter issue may be particularly complex in shared custody arrangements where support is based on the set-off of each parent’s wages, and one or both of the parent’s income has gone down. A skilled family lawyer can also give you legal advice about whether your matter warrants an emergency or urgent application, and can advise you on other family law issues such as child custody and access during the COVID-19 crisis.
Get answers to your COVID-19 child support and spousal support questions
If you need advice from a BC family lawyer with respect to child support or spousal support obligations during COVID-19, contact Valerie M. Little Law Corporation. Ms. Little is a family lawyer who has been practising family law in BC for over 30 years. Her law firm is exclusively devoted to issues of family law in Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster and throughout the Lower Mainland. No matter what family law questions or issues you might be facing in these difficult times, you will receive attentive care and understanding at the office of Valerie M. Little. For more information about our family law office or to schedule a consultation with our family lawyer, please call us today.
This blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice for any particular situation. Please consult a qualified family law professional before making any family law decisions.