COVID-19 Virginia & DC Custody and Child Support Q&A
If my ex is withholding the kids from me (i.e., denying me court ordered visitation / custody time because of COVID-19) can I get an emergency hearing with the court?
- The short answer is no, at least not right now. Almost every court has stopped hearing anything but emergency matters. A court is unlikely to hear it unless you have evidence that the children are in physical danger.
- If you have hard documented evidence that your ex is putting your children in danger (for example, a video of your child in a swarm of people on March 29th). This proof must be specific, concrete, and easily persuade a judge that your kids are in serious danger.
- Note that now is the time to have written communications with your ex.
- Ask specific questions (Are you taking the children to the grocery store? Is family coming over?) to get on the same page about what is in and out of bounds. Note that (like all family matters) what sounds reasonable to one person may not to the other parent. This is going to cause a very busy court docket in the summer and fall, and you should prepare yourself by having your communications saved, accessible, and ready for transfer.
If my ex is saying that he/she needs to suspend child support payments because of COVID-19 job loss, what are my options?
- The short answer is that child support is a court order, and the other parent is obligated to pay it. The longer answer is that if this is the first time that they are asking for a break with child support, and you can afford it, and you believe that the other party is truly hurting financially, you may want to consider whether a slight monetary break is better than returning to court over temporary circumstances.
- Note: Some child support orders do not allow parties to “self help” in this way, so review your order carefully.
- Some obligors are trying to take advantage of the situation, and some are truly unable to pay. You are not likely to see a judge on this issue before June (or later), so make other arrangements to cover your bills if you are able. If you do not have another way to pay your bills, you're going to have to file a Rule to Show Cause and wait for a hearing (note that inability to pay is a defense to not paying).