Many people are facing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This hardship can be exacerbated for payors of child & spousal support. What should you do if you’ve lost your job, or your income has been reduced due to COVID-19? This blog post covers the most frequently asked questions in this situation.
Q: Can support be modified?
A: In most cases, support is modifiable unless specifically prohibited by an existing order. The court likely made your current support order based on your financial circumstances at the time. As financial circumstances change, support can often be modified to be reflective of the changed financial circumstances.
Q: Can support be modified right now?
A: No. The Ventura County Superior Court has reduced operations due to COVID-19, and is not accepting (non-emergency) filings. This means that you will not be able to file a request to modify support until the court begins accepting and processing filings again. However, the courts will not be closed forever and as of this article, the VC courts are expected to open on May 18, 2020.
Q: Is there any way to protect myself in the meantime?
A: Yes. First, it will be helpful to understand what the typical procedures are surrounding a support modification, and more specifically how ‘retroactivity’ works. Typically, when a request to modify support is filed, a hearing date is set, and the filing date is taken as the ‘retroactivity’ date. This means that you are not prejudiced by the time that elapses from filing to the hearing date, as the court can make the modification retroactive to the date of filing.
With the court currently not accepting filings, there is no way to file a request for modification right now—but that does not mean you are out of luck for securing your retroactivity date.
The Judicial Council is expected to shortly issue a formal order approving temporary emergency rule #13. Temporary emergency rule #13 gives judges discretion to use the date that the Request for Orders for modification was served on the other party as the ‘retroactivity date’. The purpose of the rule is to provide relief to payors of support for as close to their loss of income as possible, and not penalize payors in terms of retroactivity for the court closure.
Q: Does this mean I don’t have to pay support in the meantime?
A: No. A support order is a valid court order until and unless it is modified. While you may get a modification that is retroactive to the date that you served your Request for Orders on the other party, your support obligation in the interim is still governed by your support order.
Q: What steps do I need to take to establish a retroactivity date under temporary emergency rule #13?
A: You must properly complete & serve your Request for Orders on the other party. Once the court begins accepting filings again, you will have to file your Request for Orders and re-serve the other party. It is a good idea to complete and retain a Proof of Service for each of these.
With the rapidly changing landscape of the court system, it is more important than ever to have a highly skilled attorney who’s up on the cutting edge of procedural changes fighting for you in your corner. The attorneys at Negley Law, APC will help you navigate this complicated landscape, and make sure you’re doing everything necessary to protect yourself. Give us a call today for a free 30-minute consultation at: (805) 644-4222 or visit us on the web at: VenturaDivorceAttorneys.com