Finances can be a point of stress for anyone, but for modern families – single parents, divorced parents, and blended families – there are even more layers that can make an already stressful topic, even more stressful. Whether it’s negotiating what’s considered a necessity or who will pay for what expense, there’s a lot that goes into a single purchase for a child. On top of that, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has added new financial strains and obstacles for parents to navigate from unemployment, to new expenses, and new living situations. With additional stressors thrown in the mix and new expenses to keep track of, keeping records of family spending is more important than ever.
Unemployment is still affecting 13 million people and record breaking new unemployment claims are occurring every week. It’s critical for those in modern families to understand how this will affect their families’ finances and what they’re still financially responsible for. Having a clear understanding of this will ensure they can manage the financial burden the new COVID world is presenting to parents and children alike. For example, if a parent who pays child support loses their job and is no longer receiving a steady paycheck, they are still responsible for paying child support until a modification order is in place. If a parent does not continue paying, even partially, they can accrue interest on top of the payment. The interest on past due child support is a staggering 7-12%, depending on which state the order is established.
In addition, if a parent owes back child support, a person’s stimulus check could be intercepted from the government and put towards what they owe. The unemployed parent can apply for a child support modification order to account for the job loss and have the payments adjusted accordingly, however, COVID has made this more difficult than usual as courts have been closed for months and many are just reopening but already backlogged. It’s critical for a parent to continue paying whatever amount they can towards child support and document every payment and transaction. This will ensure the child or children are still getting what they need, the parent won’t increase their financial burden and they will have proof of payments if needed in courts or legal proceedings. In addition, by making some payments, and not completely stopping, the parent can demonstrate to the court their willingness to contribute what they can. This will help to demonstrate to the court, once they are able to get a court hearing, that they did not completely stop payments and help to convince the court not to assess hefty fines or interest.
Beyond unemployment, there’s also been a massive shift in spending due to COVID with new expenses popping up, needing to cut back due to income restrictions, etc. Navigating spending – and splitting – these new expenses can be difficult, and even more so if parents are not physically seeing each other due to the pandemic. Spending has shifted to follow the “new normal” that families face. For example, if kids are not physically in school, there may be new costs that arise from childcare, to laptops, to internet, to virtual learning tutors. All these new expenses open additional conversations for parents around what they feel is or isn’t necessary during this time and who pays for what. This can create problems for parents even with child support orders as these types of expenses are not covered by child support.
Everyone has felt the immense stress brought on by the pandemic which is why any tools that can reduce stress are great assets for families and parents. Whether it’s a meditation app to get some peace and quiet and clear your mind, a grocery delivery service app to check one errand off your to-do list or a child support expense managing app that’ll help you effectively communicate and pay your co-parent – using tools to alleviate at least one stressor can be a huge help. For parents especially, keeping records of expenses and spending during this time will help to alleviate future stressors as well.
Ultimately, the burden of these numerous changes happening to modern families due to COVID is all put on the parents, which is why successful co-parenting is so important during these times. It’s critical for parents who are separated, divorced or in blended families to work together to navigate the new landscape and ultimately do what’s best for their child or children.