I WORK FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND COULD NOT PAY CHILD SUPPORT DURING THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. I AM STILL BEHIND, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
One issue that many parents were worried about during the government shutdown was falling behind on child support. The last government shutdown was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history lasting 35 days from December 22, 2018, and ending on January 25, 2019. During that time over 800,000 individuals missed paychecks. Many news articles focused on not being able to pay rent or mortgage. If you were one of the 800,000 plus individuals who did not receive a paycheck, you may not have been able to pay child support. Now that you are working again, what can you do to catch up and minimize the damage?
Child Support Modification When You Can’t Pay
Child support is a state issue and as such, is governed by state statutes. In Illinois, non-custodial parents have a duty to support their children. If you cannot afford to pay child support in Illinois, you can ask the Court for a modification. You do that filing a Motion to Modify. The key about asking to modify child support is to get the motion on file right away since motions to modify can only be granted back to the date of filing. Therefore, if you did not file a motion to modify while you were not receiving a paycheck, you cannot now file a motion to modify because you no longer qualify for a modification.
Modify Child Support or Seek Agreement with the Custodial Parent
If you did not file a motion to modify, the best thing to do is speak to the custodial parent and try to work out an agreement as to how to make up the back amounts. It is important that any agreement you reach be in writing and, if possible, approved by the judge. Without Court approval, it will be difficult to enforce any agreement. Unfortunately, if you did not file a Motion to Modify or Abate Child Support while you were not receiving funds, there is no way to go back and discharge what was owed. So, you are reliant on the custodial parent to negotiate in good faith. It is best to start working on an agreement quickly, as once the custodial parent files a Petition for Rule (contempt) in court, you are at the mercy of the judge and could be responsible for the other parent’s attorneys fees and costs as well as back child support.
If you did file a motion to modify or abate payments while the shutdown was ongoing, you need to keep up with your child support payments that come due now that you are receiving a paycheck. At this point, it will be up to the judge to determine whether the lack of a paycheck for a period of time entitles you to a modification or abatement.
Whether your case is currently pending in front of the court or whether you are trying to work out a child support agreement, it is always best to consult an attorney with expertise in family law and child support. Contact Anderson & Boback to learn the best way to proceed if you fell behind on child support since the government shutdown.