How COVID-19 Affected Support Payments
Reviewed and approved by Kathryn Wayne-Spindler
During the global pandemic everyone has been affected in some aspect of their life. For some, this means working as an essential worker, for others this means working from home, and for the rest this means laid off or unemployed. One in five American workers filed for the first time for unemployment benefits from mid-March 2020 to April 25, 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This was the highest unemployment rates since the 2008 recession.
COVID-19 has been devastating. Many people still do not know how they will make ends meet, and others are afraid of what that means for themselves as support payers, especially since the Courts have been closed and only hearing cases on an emergency basis. In many states, Michigan included, the court does not have jurisdiction to change the support obligation without being petitioned by a formal motion.
Not only have the support payers been unemployed, but it has been very likely that the support payee is also on unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic there have been a few economic payments to try to keep people afloat during the pandemic, many states allowed for mortgage payments to be rearranged and evictions were stopped for a while, for many this did not do much to help alleviate the stress as bills kept coming in and they struggled to not be crushed by them.
In Michigan, child support payments are continued until a child reaches the age of 18 and graduates high school or reaches the age of 19 ½. Meanwhile, spousal support payments are until the death of the payer or payee, remarriage of the payee, or by order of the court. Either way, the parties will need a court order to change the support obligation.
The courts did not react quickly when the market crashed in 2008 and unemployment reached 10% and further ordered people to find jobs without changing support obligations. Support arrears accrue interest, which after so long can land the support payer in jail from the unpaid support arrears. Many of the unemployed payers during the 2008 crisis did not file motions to change support obligations.
Many individuals called for temporary legislation to help alleviate some of the support arrearages during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Michigan, the Friend of the Court allowed for support payers to request their state owed support obligation to be forgiven. The Friend of the Court would review the facts surrounding the matter and if sufficient evidence were provided, the support obligation was forgiven. In many instances, the advice was to petition the court or try to come to an agreement with the supported individual to come up with a new support order until the support payor was back to work.
The past few years have been a difficult road, and many more issues and affects from the COVID-19 pandemic will surface. Hopefully, the lessons from the 2008 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic will advise the Courts what direction to take in the future to ensure that no one suffers severely moving forward past the pandemic.
The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties as well as four mid-Michigan counties Clare, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Roscommon. The attorneys handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Wixom; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; West Bloomfield; Linden; Fenton; Flint; Grand Blanc; Holly; South Lyon; New Hudson; Howell; Clare; Gladwin; Houghton Lake; Higgins Lake; and many more Michigan communities. And soon to be opening another office in Dadeville, Alabama.
For more information, please see article “Child Support in a Pandemic-Broken Economy” by Jude Egan on www.familylawyermagazine.com