Modifying Child Support Orders Retroactive Due to COVID-19 in California

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Californians conduct every aspect of their lives. These changes have affected all traditional interactions, including those involving the San Diego County Family Court system. In compliance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders and Superior Court General Orders, all courthouses and services are temporarily closed to the public. Except for “…certain time-sensitive and essential functions…,” affected parties must work within a schedule of court extensions or comply with interim rules. The courts have also suspended e-filings as a document submission alternative.

Fortunately, the situation is temporary. As life returns to some semblance of normalcy, the courts will eventually open their doors. That provides little consolation if you are struggling financially because of your current child support arrangement. If you are frustrated with your current support order and need a change, a legal representative can help you decide how best to proceed.

Discuss Your Concerns With an Attorney

Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a certified specialist in family law and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. He stays abreast of ongoing changes, so he understands how to navigate legal issues and court challenges.  That is important during these unprecedented times when a pandemic controls our day-to-day activities.

Attorney Bishop can provide critical answers to your questions about COVID-19-related support order modifications. With court systems on hold, legal processes are often complicated and tough to manage. Despite temporary court-closings, procedural changes, and delays, he can assist you in initiating a support order modification that takes advantage of a temporary retroactive provision.

Emergency Rules Related to COVID-19

When you need a child support modification order, a temporary delay causes significant hardship. Fortunately, the California Judicial Council recognizes this dilemma. Effective April 20, 2020, they added Rule 13 to its existing list of temporary procedures. Instead of waiting for the court to resume normal operations, you may initiate a child support order modification through an informal process.

Child Support Default: A COVID-19 Legacy

Child support will be a continuing element of concern even after the state’s “stay at home” order expires. The temporary business closings that helped minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 also generated record unemployment numbers. The Employment Development Department reports 99,500 lost non-farm jobs in the state from February through March 12, 2020. The numbers reflect California’s fourth-largest job-loss trend on record. It will likely continue when EDD publishes its updated figures on May 22, 2020.

Temporary job furloughs have left many workers with no source of regular income. The losses have created a situation where both custodial parents and non-custodial parents are caught up in COVID-19’s economic legacy. Some unemployed custodial parents need child support increases to provide food, shelter, and care for their children. Some unemployed parents who must pay child support have difficulty complying with existing agreements. Without some procedural relief, child support accounts will reflect unmanageable delinquencies that may subject non-paying parents to criminal penalties.

Child Support Modification

The San Diego child support system modification process helps ease financial distress for custodial and non-custodial parents. One or both parents may request a child support order modification when a situation changes:

  • Changed income
  • Lost job
  • Incarceration
  • Another child from a different relationship
  • Significant changes in time spent with the non-custodial parent
  • Changes in a child’s financial needs
  • Changes in custody calculation factors

As a custodial or non-custodial parent, you must request a child support modification through a formal court process, and it is best to consult an attorney for assistance.

Emergency Rule 13 Makes The Process More Flexible

With courthouse access restricted to emergency situations and e-filings suspended, the courthouse closings and procedure suspensions effectively shut parents out of the modification process. As the court bases modification dates on the date a request was filed, court services suspensions eliminate the potential for timely relief.  When the California Judicial Council issued Emergency Rule 13, it changed modification order effective dates. Parents must still file a formal request, but the emergency rule gives them some degree of flexibility.

Retroactive Support Orders

Child support orders were not considered in the Judicial Council’s original emergency rules dated April 6, 2020. The initial 11 procedural changes related to criminal and juvenile delinquency matters, foster care, foreclosures, and a few other issues. The emergency child support modification rule became effective on April 20, 2020. Under the temporary rule, a parent may file a modification request by following Emergency Rule 13 Guidelines. If approved, orders are retroactive to the date you started your modification process.

The emergency process allows you to “…start your case now…” and this provision applies only if you cannot file your request “…because of COVID-19…”

Do You Need an Attorney to Assist You With Your Modification Process?

Whether you are sick due to COVID-19 or unemployed because of a layoff, a modification order gives you relief until your financial situation improves. It is an important step. You need a legal professional to make the process go as smoothly as possible.  Attorney Steven M. Bishop, has handled divorce, custody, support, and estate planning challenges for over four decades. He is a Certified Specialist in Family Law who has always dedicated his time and energy to resolving his clients’ most pressing issues.

Attorney Bishop has assisted his clients with support modification orders and many other important legal processes. You can reach him at 619-304-0418 or by completing our Contact Form.

Estate Planning During the COVID-19 Crisis in California

This may seem like an unusual time to consider your estate plan. However, if you do not have a Will and/or Trust or if the estate plan you have has not been updated within the last 5 years, it may be the perfect time since you may be at home and following the Governor’s recommendations for remaining safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. Too often, decisions about our estates are put off until there is an actual health emergency. In most cases, that means you may be too late to effectively address the issue. We can help you set up an effective estate plan, even during the crisis which is currently gripping California, the United States, and the rest of the world.

The most important reasons to consider an estate plan are to save time and money. Should you pass away without a will or a trust in place, your family could be tied up for months while the court determines the status of your assets and decides the proper way to distribute those assets. This process is known as “probate” and can cost thousands of dollars. This is not necessary and could put your family in serious financial jeopardy, particularly if you are the primary breadwinner.

Gathering Your Documentation and Thoughts

This is a perfect time to look at your investment portfolio, review your retirement accounts, and consider what assets need to be distributed in the event of your death. This can help avoid problems among family members and loved ones, at a time when they are already mourning your loss.

This is also a good time to consider as the right plan for your specific estate planning needs. Whether you have an extensive investment portfolio, multiple pieces of real estate or a very simple estate involving only your home, a few personal treasures and your retirement accounts, your plan must be customized to meet your specific circumstances.

What Estate Planning Tools Are Suitable to Meet Your Goals?

Before your estate plan is put into place, it is important to understand the tools available to meet your needs. The most common estate planning options include:

  • Wills — for those who have a simple estate, a Last Will and Testament may be all that is necessary. Simply put, a will directs a specific person, known as the executor of your estate, to distribute any non-retirement or life insurance benefits to one or more beneficiaries of your choosing. For retirement plans and life insurance policies, you should check your beneficiary designations and make sure you have the beneficiary you want on file.
  • Trusts — if you have a more complex estate, a Revocable Trust may be more suitable. There are different types of trusts which can be designed to meet your specific needs. For example, if you have a family member who will need financial support after your death and you wish to contribute to that support, a special needs trust can be established. We can discuss your unique situations and help you determine the type of trust right for you and the needs of your family.
  • Powers of Attorney — Most Powers of Attorney lose their authority upon your death. However, prior to your death should you become disabled or incapable of taking care of your own financial or health matters, these documents are extremely important. We can help you make sure these issues are addressed and someone you trust is making decisions on your behalf.
  • Advanced Health Care Directive — you are entitled to make your own health care decisions pertaining to your care. However, if you are incapable of communicating these decisions, you need to make sure they are in writing and someone is aware of your wishes. We can help you craft the appropriate documentation to ensure your wishes are fully executed in the event of your disability or inability to communicate.
  • HIPAA Release — this form is required when you turn over healthcare decisions to a third-party. This release allows your medical team to discuss your health, your medical care, and your prognosis with someone you direct.

Anyone considering an estate plan, regardless of the timing should also be aware there are significant differences in your estate plan whether you choose a will or a trust. While a Will becomes part of the public record after your death because it must be filed with the Probate Court, a Trust keeps all your financial information private.

It is also important to note having a trust is almost always a much faster way to settle your estate since it does not need to go through the courts. We have had clients who have opted to use a trust because it is more effective, timelier, and in some cases, much more cost-effective.

Another part of an effective estate plan is tax planning. We can work with you to help minimize the amount of taxes which may be part of the distribution of assets from your estate, leaving more to your loved ones.

Estate Planning During Lockdown

We know this is an unprecedented time. While we normally schedule estate planning sessions in our office, we also understand the importance of remaining safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We can help you feel safe by discussing your estate plan using modern technology. We can schedule all appointments via teleconference using secure technology.

Once we have your full plan in place, we will provide the relevant documents for review and make sure they meet your expectations. We will discuss any changes you wish to make and, if necessary, forward revised drafts, at no additional cost to you.

For those documents which require notarization, we will be prepared to have our local notary visit your home (taking proper precautions) and have all documents properly notarized. We are taking all the necessary steps to keep our clients safe

Please contact me, Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law and Certified Family Law Specialist, if you would like to get the ball rolling on your estate plan. In addition, you may contact me if you have any questions pertaining to an estate plan and why now is the right time to design a plan which works best for you and your family. Thank you for your consideration.

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Discuss Your Case With An Experienced Family Law Specialist

To talk to our lawyer about your family law issue in a free telephone consultation, please call our office at 619-299-9780. You may also send us an email. We represent people throughout San Diego County in a host of different family law matters.

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The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation


591 Camino De La Reina, Suite 700

San Diego, CA 92108

Phone: 619-299-9780

Fax: 619-299-0316

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