Orange County and the Modification of Support Orders During COVID-19

Many of us are grappling with the results of the unprecedented shutdown imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. There is a high probability that even the most basics aspects of your day have been altered.

One key way that Coronavirus has impacted many American citizens is through their ability to work and earn money. No one can state with certainty how many people have lost their jobs (permanently or temporarily) to COVID-19, but some have estimated that unemployment rates could skyrocket toward 20% by this summer.

It’s stressful to be out of work without a way to earn money– and when you count on someone else for support, their contributions become especially important in times of crisis. Our courts recognize this and have therefore instituted Temporary Emergency Rule #13 to help people receive support calculated based on current conditions.

Temporary Emergency Rule #13

Emergency Rule 13 was adopted effective April 20, 2020.  It is set to remain in effect until 90 days after the Governor declares that the COVID-related state of emergency is lifted. It may also be amended or repealed by the Judicial Council before then.

This rule makes it easier for parents and guardians to request changes to support orders during this state of emergency. These changes may be made to a variety of orders:

  • Child
  • Spousal
  • Partner
  • Family

What does Emergency Rule #13 actually do?

Emergency Rule #13 makes it possible for people to pursue backdated support orders.

Under Emergency Rule #13, judges have the discretion to backdate modified support orders. Therefore, judges can backdate changes according to when the people seeking those changes mail or serve their requests. Prior to Emergency Rule #13’s institution, these orders would be dated in accordance with the date requests were filed with the court.

A Refresher on Child Support in Orange County

It’s important to understand different types of support in California and the purpose of each. For instance, child support in the state of California:

  • Is based on each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children
  • Payments include the costs of child care related to work, reasonable and necessary education, and reasonable uninsured health costs for the child
  • Does allow for some income deductions in cases of extreme hardship
  • Continues until age 19 (while in high school) or 18 (with completion of high school)

If you have questions about how different forms of support are calculated within the state, an attorney can help clarify these rules.

Defining “Support Order”

Most of us tend to hear “support order” with the word “child” in front of it and while child support orders are certainly popular (and oftentimes necessary), they aren’t the only type of support order that somebody can pursue.

The easiest way to understand the basics of a support order is to break down the concept:

  • An order is a command entered by a judge that instructs parties to take action (or face penalties for violation of the order)
  • The term support might refer to child support, spousal support, or other forms of family maintenance

Most support orders follow significant changes to relationships and living arrangements. They tend to follow divorces and legal separations.

What Different Types of Support are Available?

Different types of support are available to account for different circumstances:

  • Spousal or partner support generally comes into effect when couples separate or divorce in the state
  • Child support helps account for the financial costs of raising a child and maintaining his or her quality of life

Why are Support Order Modifications so Important? Why is COVID-19 Adding More Pressure to the Scenario?

When we file a support order, there’s a reason. Some people maintain support orders to help care for their children, and others receive spousal support after a separation to help account for the costs of living solo.

Sometimes, people need to modify their support orders, which can happen for a myriad of reasons. In this case, we find that many of our clients have questions about modifying their support orders as a response to the impact of COVID-19. People across the state have faced diminished earning capacity and have even been completely out of work due to the COVID pandemic.

California courts recognize that allowing for service of unfiled requests is critical in this state of emergency. Alterations to court operations have been made with public safety in mind– but there’s no doubt that those alterations are making it more challenging for courts to file and process requests. Emergency Rule #13 helps those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic receive relief as soon as possible following loss of income.

Attorneys and Parties May Serve an Unfiled RFO for Support

As of now, there is no formal order in place to dictate exactly what happens when someone serves an unfiled RFO for support.

The court may make this order retroactive to the date of service of the unfiled RFO. It is important for clients who may be involved in processes like these to monitor the California court’s website for further details.

What Should I Do if I Need a Support Modification?

If you believe that you need or may be entitled to a different amount of spousal or child support, you should get in touch with a family law attorney as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have a current support order, you can work with a lawyer to create and approve one.

It’s always best to consult with a legal professional as soon as possible. Not only does this help offer peace of mind, but it actually does expedite the legal process. The sooner a request is drafted, the sooner it can be served.

Pedrick Law Group, APC: Assisting Clients With Obtaining Retroactive Support

If you are in need of legal assistance obtaining retroactive support, our team may be able to help. We are also prepared to assist individuals with support obligations who have experienced recent changes to their income.

Contact us today or call us at 949-388-8682 to speak to a legal representative. Our offices remain prepared to support clients with a range of custody and support-related cases.

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