Approximately 370,000 North Carolinians have filed for unemployment insurance assistance since March 16, an unprecedented spike in filings as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, the North Carolina Department of Employment Security received about 3,000 claims a week.[1] The current coronavirus pandemic, caused Mecklenburg County to issue a stay at home Order that went into effect on March 26, 2020, closing all but “Essential Businesses.” Governor Cooper followed suit shortly thereafter and issued a state wide Executive Order affecting all of North Carolina that remains in place through April 29, 2020. Legal Services have been deemed “essential” and Dozier Mille Law Group is open and serving our clients safely by email, telephone, and video conferencing.

Countless businesses have closed, and hundreds of others have laid-off or furloughed employees. This economic downturn will hit parents, who have lost their jobs, or their business has significantly decreased, especially hard, and it will have an impact on their ability to pay child support.  However, a court order is expected to be followed, and without good cause, a parent who fails to pay child support per an Order, is at risk of being held in contempt of Court. Family Law Attorneys at Dozier Miller are skilled on complexities of child support modification issues and can help during this difficult time.

While many parents will be understanding of a co-parent who has lost a job and may be struggling to pay support, not all will.   The assumption is that a judge’s order should be followed. And a child support order and the amount owed will remain in effect and enforceable until modified. A Judge may be more lenient regarding contempt related to child support, if a parent has lost their job or their business has been negatively impacted, but until a motion to modify support has been filed, the court ordered amount of child support will continue to accrue.

North Carolina General Statute §50-13.7 addresses modification of custody and support orders. A modification of child support requires a substantial change in circumstances. A job loss or significant reduction in income may entitled a party to a reduction in their child support amount. The Court is not currently hearing child support cases due to Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s current Order limiting hearings until June 1, 2020. However, it is still very important to file for a modification as soon as possible, because it preserves your claim and the date of filing may be used to determine any arrears (past due support) that is owed or not owed. Even if you do not have the ability to pay the support due to a job loss, without filing for a modification the court can still order that the arrears are paid.

Economic uncertainty is only made worse by the possibility of contempt for failing to pay child support.  Dozier Miller attorneys are here to help with that uncertainty and guide you through these difficult times. Acting quickly to address your child support order may help ensure you are not held in contempt and save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in child support arrears in the future.

[1] https://des.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2020/04/03/des-working-immediately-expand-capacity-response-surge-covid-19

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