For those parents required by law to pay child support, the coronavirus pandemic may disrupt — but likely won’t suspend — their financial obligations.
Residents across the state face fiscal uncertainty as people have been told to stay home to avoid spreading the virus. The orders to "shelter-in-place" from state and local levels have temporarily shut down all but essential businesses, leading to furloughs and layoffs for thousands.
And that may hamper parents' ability to make child support payments on time.
And for parents who are taking care of children reliant on such support, failure to receive these payments may place them in dire financial straits.
The state Department of Children and Family Services announced that although their office lobbies are closed to visitors, they encourage non-custodial parents to make payments electronically or by phone for the duration of the crisis.
Some grocery stores also have MoneyGram locations where parents can make child support payments using cash.
“We are concerned and understand the impact that this pandemic has on both the custodial and non-custodial parents who pay and receive support,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. “Please know that we are committed to offering quality service to Louisiana families.”
DCFS spokesperson Heidi Rogers Kinchen clarified that DCFS does not have the authority to suspend child support payments — that power lies with the courts — but as people face income challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak, the department will evaluate “whether enforcement actions should be pursued on a case-by-case basis.”
Failure to pay child support can result in penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.
Kinchen advised that parents without custody of their children who have lost their income during the pandemic should keep records of their income, earned or not, and their dates of employment.
They should also notify their Child Support Enforcement worker to provide verification of unemployment, Kinchen said, as well as file for a modification of their order in the Clerk of Court where the order is located.