Child Support

Modifying a Support Order During the COVID-19 Crisis

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has led to an unprecedented health and economic crisis that is changing the lives of everyone. As businesses are forced to shut down their operations, people are facing layoffs, furloughs, or pay cuts in record numbers. Those who lost their jobs, or saw a significant reduction in income, and have a child or spousal support obligations, may face even more financial stress as they struggle to fulfill their support obligations. Despite the loss of employment or significant reduction in income, a court order for support nonetheless continues until the order is modified or terminated.

California law permits support obligations to be modified, and they may be decreased or increased upon proving a change of circumstances since the current order was initially made. A loss of income, or a significant reduction in income, for example, may be deemed a significant change of circumstances that warrants a modification of spousal support. Therefore, individuals who are unemployed, or experienced a substantial decrease in income due to COVID-19, should seek necessary relief by filing for a Request for Order for Modification of Support.

Despite court closures statewide, there are significant advantages to immediately preparing and serving a Request for Order for Modification of Support to the opposing party, or their attorney. The main advantage is to preserve retroactivity.

In California, judges have the discretion to order support retroactive to the date the Request for Order for Modification of Support was filed. However, since California Superior Courts are closed, to address the issue of retroactivity of support orders, the state Judicial Council issued Emergency Rule 13, which states as follows:

  • “ Except as provided in Family Law Code section 3653(b), an order modifying or terminating a support order may be made effective as of the date the request and supporting papers are mailed or otherwise served on the other party, or other party’s attorneys when permitted. Nothing in this rule restricts the court’s discretion to order a later effective date.”

Instead of retroactivity beginning on the date, the document was filed, Emergency Rule 13, now allows an order modifying or terminating support to be retroactive to the date the request was served.

Once California courts reopen, due to the backlog of filings, hearing dates for requests to modify support will likely be scheduled months from now. The good news is, at the time of the hearing, pursuant to Emergency Rule 13, a judge will have the ability to backdate the new support amount to the date the Request for Order was served.

Based on Emergency Rule 13, there is a significant advantage to preparing a Request for Order for Modification of Support and immediately serving it on opposing party or opposing counsel. Otherwise, the support will stay the same, despite your change in circumstances, and you will continue to accrue the same 10% interest on that amount.

If you would like the attorneys at Sullivan Law & Associates to assist you with your request to modify support, visit our website or call us at (949) 565-2793.