How to Request a Child Support Modification during COVID-19 or a Crisis

By Susan Levy Eisenberg

The pandemic has taken a financial toll on thousands of people in our state. In Bucks and Montgomery counties, many of our neighbors have lost jobs, experienced pay cuts, or closed their businesses. According to the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation, state residents filed nearly 2 million unemployment claims between March 2020 and the end of the year.

The pandemic has affected the livelihoods of many divorced parents as well. An income loss for the payor as well as the payee (the person receiving the support) has consequences, and can impact the stability of the households and the children. Many people who provide support may not be able to meet their obligations, or they may find that the current level of support is not enough to sustain the household.

If you have experienced what the court calls a “material or substantial change” in your income, you should file for a modification of support. Whether you are the payor or the payee, it is crucial to act quickly. Adjustments to the support payment amount will be retroactive back to the date you file the petition.

Filing for Modification of a Support by the Payor

While you may be on agreeable terms with the co-parent, if you provide child support and or alimony and can no longer afford the payments, you must officially request a modification to the support order.

Without a modification filed with the court, the payor can be held responsible for any missed or reduced payments and could be found in contempt of the court. Remember, changes in a payor’s employment status is not conveyed to the court. It is up to the payor to inform the court through a petition to modify.

Filing for Modification of a Support by the Payee

Conversely, if you are the payee or the person receiving the support and have experienced a loss in income, you should also file for a modification.

Bucks and Montgomery County Courts are working mostly virtually, but there are exceptions based on the purview of the sitting judge, or with more serious matters, such as a Custody or Protection from Abuse request. Your lawyer can and should file for a modification online as soon as your ability to pay support is in jeopardy or you have experienced a loss in income and require additional support. The date of filing acts as the start date of the modification.

The Montgomery County Court does provide an option if the parties can agree to an adjusted support amount. The payee and payor can submit this agreement in writing to the court and once signed and notarized, the court will recognize this modification. If the parties are not in agreement, you must then petition the court for a modification. In Bucks County, a formal petition is still required.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, and in some instances, our employment has been a casualty. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t wait to get advice and counsel. We want to ensure that all family households survive these trying times with as little disruption as possible. Susan Levy Eisenberg’s team is ready to support and guide you through the modification process.

Always discuss your particular case with a divorce attorney, rather than relying upon general information.

Susan Levy Eisenberg has been practicing family law in Bucks and Montgomery Counties for over three decades.  Her extensive knowledge and experience negotiating custody conflicts have earned Susan a reputation as a compassionate and fair-handed counsel.  Ms. Eisenberg and her staff are ready to listen and guide clients to an outcome that best suits the child’s needs.