The economic impacts of COVID-19 are devastating businesses and workers across the country, and this has implications for child support payments. Many industries do not have the privilege of being able to work from home, resulting in millions of Canadians being laid off. In late March, the Angus Reid Institute reported that 42% of B.C. households have experienced reduced hours or layoffs. That’s almost half of B.C. households now struggling to make ends meet.
For those who are out of work due to COVID-19, the federal government has implemented the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), an emergency financial package of $2,000 for up to 4 months. CERB is designed to be more accessible than employment insurance (EI), and on Tuesday of this week, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that eligibility criteria would be expanded even further to include those working reduced hours, gig workers and students. On its first day of receiving applications this past Monday, the CERB received close to 1 million new claims. What is abundantly clear from these statistics is this: the economic consequences of COVID-19 are directly impacting the livelihoods of Canadians across the country.
If you’re a parent responsible for paying child support and are facing reduced hours or unemployment, this is a particularly critical time of uncertainty and stress. This blog is dedicated to helping you navigate this unchartered territory, including what steps you can take even while B.C. courts remain closed.
Changes to Income Affect Child Support
Child support is based on annual income and easy to calculate using this tool. If you’re a parent who has lost your job(s) and eligible to receive CERB or EI payments, chances are this benefit will be less income than what you were making prior to being laid off. Because your income is reduced, child support obligations will also be reduced.
As we discussed in a previous blog, B.C. courts have been closed for all but urgent applications for the past few weeks. Typically, varying a child support Order involves filing with the court (unless the agreement has not been filed with the court, in which case failure to pay child support is a breach of contract). Varying a child support Order is not considered “urgent” and thus the courts are not processing these filings.
The law requires that meeting the obligations of child support must take precedence over the payer’s own financial needs. In times of unexpected economic distress like we are in now, this is especially problematic for both the payer and the recipient, both struggling to make ends meet. With the courts closed, what can be done in the meantime?
If the payer’s income has been reduced and can no longer meet the full obligation of paying child support, the first step is to provide written notice to the recipient as soon as possible. The purpose of this statement is to outline the details of the circumstances as to why they are no longer able to pay full child support. Ideally, the payer and recipient will be able to agree on a change in child support given the unusual circumstances. The payer should be prepared with the appropriate documentation of this change in anticipation for when the courts do re-open for non-urgent cases.
Here to Help
If you have questions about child support during COVID-19, Westside Family Law is ready to assist. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to help you.