Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana, the Department of Children and Family Services has indicated that child support payments and custody agreements will continue as before. DCFS employees will be working from home during the Stay at Home period, but all payment and enforcement procedures will continue to operate throughout the crisis. That said, the pandemic may still affect your child support and custody arrangements and orders.
With businesses across the state temporarily shuttered, hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents have been furloughed or laid off. This may lead to financial instability for both those who pay and those who receive child support. To date, non-custodial parents are still expected to make their payments on time per their child support orders. Parents can still make child support payments electronically, by phone, or through MoneyGram locations in grocery stores, which remain open as an essential business. If you are a payor, make sure you get and retain evidence of payment.
With the end of the stay at home order likely to be extended, non-custodial parents should take into account their financial status and contact their attorney if they believe they will be unable to meet their financial obligation. By the same token, custodial parents may experience delayed payments, and should contact their attorney if they are not receiving child support in accordance with a court order. Payments from the Federal Stimulus Package have already begun going out, and individuals who owe child support may find their checks garnished, as the overdue funds will be redirected to the custodial parent.
Communicate Any Payment Issues
According to spokesperson Heidi Rogers Kinchen of the DCFS in an interview with The Advocate, the DCFS will determine punitive measures for missed child support payments on a case-by-case basis. Child support recipients should be prepared for delayed child support payments, despite the fact that payments have not been officially suspended. Non-custodial parents who are expected to make child support payments should continue to do so if at all possible.
If for some reason you are unable to make a child support payment on time, it is imperative that you contact your Child Support Enforcement worker, as failure to pay may result in punitive measures up to and including fines and imprisonment. Your DCFS representative will determine whether to file for a modification of the order with the Clerk of Court based on your individual circumstances; however, you will still be required to make timely child support payments until that decision has been made.
Seek Legal Assistance
If you are having difficulty paying or receiving child support payments, contact the attorneys at Brown Weimer LLC. We are working through this crisis to ensure that our clients have the representation they need. Be sure to keep accurate records of your income and employment status before, during, and after the crisis. In addition, take note of any financial payments or assistance given or received during this time period.
With stay-at-home orders in full effect, school closures and lack of child care services may place an additional burden on parents. Although all custodial orders remain in place, parents should understand the importance of working together to accommodate the changes caused by the pandemic.
Working With Schedule Changes
During the pandemic, children may be continuing their education from home, necessitating access to the internet, computers, and other resources at certain times of the day. Parents who are working from home may need to adjust their schedules to work around their child's needs, and essential workers may not be available to monitor the children at home. Parents should be focused on ensuring the safety of their children during the pandemic. Ideally, parents should compromise and find a mutually beneficial solution to accommodate these changes. Any agreed changes to a custody agreement or judgment, even if temporary, should be thoroughly documented in writing by both parties.
Limit Your Child's Exposure
In addition to coordinating work and school schedules, parents must take into account their child's potential for exposure to the pathogen. Not only does Louisiana's Stay at Home Order close schools and non-essential businesses, it limits the number of people who can gather together and restricts their activities outside the home. Parents should be aware of these limitations and their purpose, which is to prevent the spread of the virus. Previously acceptable activities such as time with friends and family and visits to the park and playground may be impossible. In fact, parents should consider the potential for exposure whenever their child leaves the home and make adjustments to their activities accordingly.
Seek a Mutually Beneficial Agreement
It is important that both parents work together to co-parent during this pandemic. The child's best interest should be at the forefront of any decision. If a dispute arises over issues involving the child, take action now. Contact an attorney.
If you find that your child's safety or health is endangered by the other parent from a failure to comply with social distancing guidelines or exposure to the virus, take action immediately by contacting an attorney. If a parent is violating the custody judgment in place, you can take action now to enforce the agreement or judgment. Contact an attorney.
Consult a Legal Professional
The attorneys at Brown Weimer LLC are here to help you navigate the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and governmental response. Remember to document all communication concerning custody arrangements, and track all visitation and custodial changes. When determining custody arrangements during this difficult time, the safety and security of your child is paramount.
Contact Brown Weimer LLC for Assistance With Your Child Support and Custody Issues
At Brown Weimer LLC, we understand that these are difficult times. Many parents are experiencing unprecedented stress due to financial, scheduling, and health concerns, and added worries about child support and custody can be overwhelming. Our dedicated and experienced family law attorneys will help you find a solution to the complications that may arise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contact our office today with your family law questions at 504-561-8700 or send us a message via our online contact form.