There are a lot of questions surrounding the impact COVID-19 is having on divorces including the post-divorce interpretation of divorce decree terms on child custody and child support.
This is a brief answer to some of the more common questions. I’ve written previously about the Texas Supreme Court’s emergency orders clarifying the interpretation of possession schedules and clarifying the impact of shelter in place orders on child custody.
The information below is for general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with an attorney for advice on your specific situation.
Are Courts Still Hearing Cases?
Generally, yes. Most courts are still open to some extent. Some courts are only hearing essential cases such as criminal proceedings and protective orders involving family violence.
Other courts are still conducting hearings but with changes to their procedures such as conducting hearings by phone or written submission of evidence.
Can I Still File For Divorce?
Yes. Most law firms are still operating though many are working remotely. There are no orders that prohibit filing of a new divorce case but it may take longer right now to get a final hearing.
At this point, most law firms are still moving cases forward even if final hearing dates are delayed.
What Happens To My Possession Schedule If School Is Not In Session?
The Texas Supreme Court answered that question in this emergency order.
You should operate on the originally published school year calendar for your school district or the school your child is enrolled in. The shut down of the school itself is not relevant.
Am I Still Obligated To Pay Child Support If I Lose My Job Or Have My Hours Reduced?
Yes, your child support obligation is not terminated by a job loss or reduction in hours. If you have no paycheck that your child support can be withheld from, then you should make payments directly to the State Disbursement Unit.
If you do not make your required child support payments, then the obligation will continue to accrue as unpaid child support.
If you cannot afford to make your child support payments, then you should file a petition to modify your child support obligation.
Is My Child Support Obligation Reduced If I Lose My Job or My Employer Reduces My Hours?
No. The amount of your child support obligation does not change based on the status of your employment. It is a fixed amount that can only be changed by court order.
The legal process of changing your child support obligation is called a modification. You can learn more about modifying your child support obligations here.
Should I Wait To File A Modification?
No. Remember, your child support obligation will continue to accrue as unpaid child support and you will eventually have to pay that unpaid child support.
A court order modifying child support is only effective back to the date the obligee is served with citation or makes an appearance in the case. The order modifying child support cannot alter the amount owed prior to the filing of the petition to modify your child support.
If you wait, those amounts will continue to accrue as unpaid child support which carries significant penalties.
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