How Does the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Affect My Child Custody or Child Support Order in New York?
As most Americans adapt to a new reality in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in particular social distancing, mandatory business closures and work from home, school closures, job layoffs, shortages of food and essential supplies, etc., there are lot of questions that need to be answered. For the first time in a long time, many of us are having to take care of our children (and maybe even perhaps our parents or grandparents) full-time.
Coronavirus Impact on Child Custody Orders
If you are not married or in an intact relationship with your children’s other parent, you may have a Child Custody Order and are wondering whether or not you have to send your children to visit the other parent. If you are the noncustodial or nonresidential parent, you may fear that you are going to go a prolonged period of time without seeing your children if the Federal or New York State governments issue a mandatory quarantine or stay in place order.
Coronavirus Impact on Child Support Orders
If you have a Child Support Order and you lost your job or your hours were cut back and you are starting to struggle to make ends meet, you may be asking whether or not you have to continue to pay child support. Conversely, if you rely on child support to care for your children, provide for their support, food, clothing, shelter activities, etc., you may be afraid that the other parent is going to stop paying altogether.
In this article, we answer the foregoing questions, as well as others you might have surrounding your Child Custody and Child Support obligations at this unprecedented time.
The Government’s Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19):
It is important to note that as of the date we are writing this Article (March 22, 2020), there has been no mandatory quarantine or stay in place order issued by the Federal or New York State governments. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus which is spread mainly from person-to-person. The CDC is recommending social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people), washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home if you’re sick, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze, wear a facemask if you are sick, and clean and disinfect your house regularly.
In New York, “New York on PAUSE” took affect at 8 p.m. on March 22, 2020. These measures order that 100% of nonessential businesses must begin to work from home. The measures also include that all nonessential gatherings of individuals for any reason are banned. All barbershops, hair salons, tattoo and piercing salons, hair removal and personal care services are closed. Additionally, all casinos, gyms, theaters, retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys are closed. Bar and restaurants are closed except for takeout or delivery.
Essential businesses include health care operations including hospitals and doctors offices, infrastructure such as utilities and transportation, manufacturing, food, medical and necessaries, essential retail only (grocery and liquor stores, pharmacies, gas stations, takeout food, hardware and building supplies), essential services (trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal), mail and shipping services, laundromats/dry cleaning, building cleaning and maintenance, child care services, auto repair, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries, storage for essential businesses, animal shelters or animal care or management), the news media, financial institutions (banks, insurance, payroll and accounting), providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations including homeless shelters and food banks, defense (think Military), essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses including law enforcement, fire prevention and response, building code enforcement, security, emergency management and response, building cleaners or janitors, general maintenance whether employed by the entity directly or a vendor, automotive repair, disinfection and doormen, vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public including, logistics, technology support, child care programs and services, government owned or leased buildings and essential government services.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and my Child Custody Order
As noted, “New York on PAUSE” does not mandate that we all stay isolated to our homes. Because of this, it means business as usual as it relates to your Child Custody Order or Agreement and all exchanges and transitions of your children should continue to take place. If you have an alternate schedule for the summer or when your children are not in school you may want to consider shifting to this schedule at the current time to avoid the number of transitions and exchanges. Furthermore, we are encouraging all of our clients to communicate and work with the other parent to come up with a schedule that works best for their children, bearing in mind that the children are likely frightened of their new reality and will need the support of both of their parents. Even in the current environment we are permitted to leave our homes to seek food, medical, care, outdoor exercise and gas – this means that you can leave your home to exchange your children. The closure of businesses was intended to decrease the number of places frequented by people, not prohibit people from leaving their homes.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are being denied your children by the custodial parent, there are remedies available to you. If you find yourself in this situation you should consider filing a Petition to modify and/or enforce the current Order. We suspect that, depending on the circumstances, courts are not going to look favorably upon custodial parents who utilize the Coronavirus as a reason to withhold children from the non-custodial parent. Additionally, as a non-custodial parent, the Coronavirus does not give you the right to refuse to return your children to the custodial parent at the end of your scheduled parenting time.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and My Child Support Order
With the enactment of “New York on PAUSE” the majority of New Yorkers will find themselves home from work, some without pay. While certain individuals have the option to file for unemployment or other government benefits, not all do, and even for those who do, the amount received is not generally commensurate with their income. However, “New York on PAUSE” does not “pause” your obligations under a Child Support Order, and as a result, any existing Order will remain in effect and enforceable.
If you find yourself in a position where your pay has decreased, or you are without pay all together, as a result of the Coronavirus, you must act fast and file to have your child support obligation modified during this time. The standard for the modification of a child support order, unless your agreement states otherwise, is three (3) years from the date of the last order, a 15% change in either party’s income or a substantial change in circumstances. Therefore, there are options available to you under which you can potentially obtain a child support modification, but you have no way of knowing unless you file the proper Petition. Bear in mind that any child support modification is retroactive to the date of filing, which means the earlier you file during this crisis, the more financial relief you stand to receive.
Alternatively, if you find yourself in a position where the non-custodial parent has stopped child support payments under a valid court order, you should file to enforce and/or secure any child support arrears which may accrue during this time.
What Does This Mean for Your Child Custody & Child Support Orders?
None of the executive orders enacted thus far have any bearing on your Court Ordered obligations, including those incumbent upon you by a Child Custody or Child Support Order. If you have any questions during this difficult time, our office is open remotely, and we are available to answer and address any questions or concerns you may have. If you find yourself needing advice or assistance at this time, do not hesitate to call us here are Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. at 631-923-1910.
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