As we enter the uncharted territory of the COVID-19 pandemic, the implications of the virus changes everyday life as we know it. As the stock market plummets, supply chains are interrupted, workers are furloughed and/or laid off, the implications of the novel coronavirus go well beyond what the pandemic means for individual portfolios. The most vulnerable in our society –those in need of family supports, such as child and spousal support may be hit hard.
Child support is one of the largest sources of income for families. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nationwide, the child support program serves one quarter of all U.S. children and half of all U.S. children in poor families—totaling 17.5 million children. Research shows it reduces child poverty, promotes parental responsibility and involvement and improves children’s educational outcomes. Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, and many women, especially mothers with children, fall into poverty after divorce. As the COVID-19 spreads, this group may become the silent victims of this contagion.
In almost every state, child support and spousal support is tied to the income of the parties. Should that income diminish due to reduced work and layoffs, or dissipate completely as a result of job terminations, support payments can change radically. Payments may dry up if pay checks disappear. Payors with reduced income may ask for downward modifications in their support orders. Payees who receive support and were working at the time an order was entered may lose a job, and be unable to replace it through support, if the payor also has lost income. The ramifications are broad, and might affect the day to day survival for many.