So many Americans are struggling due to the financial implications of COVID-19. A lot of Americans – including Illinois families – are still unable to work and losing a lot of income because many establishments closed as a direct result of the stay-at-home order. While the stimulus package should have helped some Americans, it most likely did not help all of them. Expenses and support obligations, such as child support, spousal maintenance, and childcare expenses, still need to be met.
If you are in a situation where you cannot meet your court-ordered support obligations, speak to a trusted family law attorney to modify your support order immediately. It is imperative that you take care of this right now, as the modification does not extend retroactively past the date you filed the modification.
Here is a video guide to discussing your options.
Before You Do Anything, File for Unemployment
If you are employed by a business that is not considered to be essential, is closed even on a temporary basis, or if your position has been eliminated, file for unemployment. Even if your business is shut down temporarily, you may still qualify. There is an exception made for those who are temporarily unemployed in that they can apply for benefits. There has been a bump from the Federal Government over and above the state funds that you would typically receive.
Table of Contents
Then calculate if you can meet your support obligations.
Now, once you figure out how much money you are going to receive from unemployment, compare that amount to your regular salary. If it seems like it is in line with what you would normally receive, you may want to wait to do anything or modify your order. It is highly recommended that if you can continue to pay child support at the same level that you did before, you should continue to do so. The judge will look favorably upon your decision to continue your support during these difficult times.
If the unemployment filing causes a significant decrease in your income — a substantial change in your circumstances — then modify your child support. Even if you are unsure, you may want to err on the side of filing something. The courts are open in a limited capacity in Cook County, so we are able to file to modify child support. Keep in mind that it is important that if you need a modification, you do so right away. The request to modify your support is only retroactive back to the date that you file. You would not be able to go even further than that, or to the day that you lost your job.
What about Spousal Support Obligations?
The same goes for spousal support. If you have an order that is modifiable for maintenance or spousal support, you would want to consider whether or not you need to file for a modification. It is better to err on the side of filing. You can always dismiss your petition or withdraw if you decide that you do not need it because you have become restored in some capacity. But if you think that you are going to have a significant change relate to your income, and you have a support obligation, you need to be looking at the numbers to see if this is something you need to pursue. Do not sit on it, do not wait for everything to reopen — do it now.
What if I am an essential worker, and I need more resources?
Essential workers require childcare for their children, and sometimes they do not have the help of family or a spouse, or a friend to be able to watch their kids while they are reporting to work for their essential duties. And with school being out, we are seeing an increase in childcare costs for essential workers who do not have help for free. In that case, it would be wise to go ahead and modify your request for a contribution to your child-related expenses. However, if you have a 50/50 parenting time situation, and neither party’s income has changed, you probably would not want to do a modification.
Overall, these support obligations – child support, spousal support, and childcare obligations – are seeing a lot of changes at this point in time. If you are unsure of your support order, speak to an experienced family law attorney and see what your options are. Keep in mind that courts in Illinois and Chicago counties are still open but in a limited capacity. While you may be tempted to wait until everything reopens, it is definitely to your benefit to act right away if you are going to need a request to modify.
If you are finding yourself in a situation where you are struggling to support yourself during this time, and are worried about paying for child and/or spousal support, do not worry. Feel free to contact us at Anderson & Boback for a confidential consultation and get your questions answered about your support obligations and how the coronavirus may be impacting it.