Times Are Tough
The spread of COVID-19 has thrown the certainties of life into disarray. Unfortunately, this uncertainty has had a devastating impact on both the stock market and the everyday commerce that sustains the economy. Freelancers, drivers, hotel, restaurant workers and many others now find themselves physically or legally barred from working. The layoffs aren’t limited to service workers; even people employed in fields who are able to work remotely from home might find themselves laid-off or furloughed as businesses reduce their payrolls in a bid to cut costs during these challenging times.
With almost twenty million people unemployed, and an average of a million filing for unemployment every day for the last three weeks, one certainty within the great chaos of COVID-19 is that parents’ ability to fulfill child support obligations has been adversely affected. If you have been financially affected by the pandemic, we are here to help. Our attorneys are prepared for this situation and can help you attempt to modify your child support obligations to reflect your new circumstances.
Courts Are Limited; We Are Fully Operational
The general conception that the Courts are closed in Massachusetts until June 1, 2020 is not accurate. While the Court facilities are closed to the general public and no “in-person” hearings are being held, the Courts are open and functioning on a limited basis. They are having telephonic and video hearings on emergency cases as well as on some others. The courts have clearly communicated that it is crucial for people who need to reduce or suspend child support obligations are to continue filing complaints for modification. The reason this is critical is that reductions or suspensions can only be retroactive to the date the Complaint was filed and/or served on the other side. The courts are aware of the many persons whose income and ability to pay child support have been affected, through no fault of their own, by the virus. The Court, however, can only help those who actually file. In addition, there are also alternative means of addressing these issues outside of Court. Mediation and Collaborative Law options are still available dispute resolution techniques to attempt to reach agreements without Court intervention (outside of filing any agreement for enforcement purposes). In addition to his traditional litigation practice, Attorney Schutzbank is a trained mediator and collaborative law practitioner and can assist you in negotiating child support reduction agreements due to COVID-19 layoffs.
As a side note, these instructions apply to other categories of complaint, including divorce, parenting, guardianship and other probate and family law concerns.
When the courts finally resume more normal operational capacity, they are promising to proceed on complaints for modification received during the closure with due haste. They will schedule pending matters as soon as possible. The Courts are already trying to hear more cases via telephonic and video means. It is important to note that the Courts remain open to hear emergencies and continue to attempt to provide access to other matters but that it will likely take longer than usual.
We recognize that even when life comes to a standstill, the need for legal help waits for nothing and no one. Berid & Schutzbank is prepared to represent your interests in child support and other issues even in the midst of this pandemic. Contact us directly to discuss your situation and learn your options.