The pandemic has affected all parts of society this year. From daily routines to the economy to the political sphere, nothing has avoided the impact. The legal and judicial system has had to make some significant changes in order to keep things running, especially in hard-hit areas like California.
That’s why the California Judicial Council adopted a series of thirteen Emergency Rules on April 6 th of this year. These rules are designed to allow important court proceedings to continue while preventing the transmission of the virus. While all the rules are important, Emergency Rule 13 is most likely to affect California residents in their day-to-day lives.
What Is Emergency Rule 13
It’s clear that the pandemic has caused serious difficulties for many people throughout California. This includes people who have spousal or child support orders in place. Emergency Rule 13 is designed to help these people file for support modifications without losing time due to court closures.
Specifically, Emergency Rule 13 regards the effective date for requests to modify support . Traditionally, these orders must be filed with the court, and the effective date was the date it was filed. Once the modification was approved, the increase or decrease in the ordered payment amount would be backdated to the day the modification was requested.
However, court closures have made it difficult to formally file modification requests. Without officials present at the court, modifications could not be requested traditionally. That’s where Emergency Rule 13 comes in.
This rule states that support modification requests will now be dated from the day the request was mailed to the court. Instead of waiting to make the request in person, petitioners can simply mail their modification request. The postmark will be considered the effective date if the modification is approved.
This can make a serious difference for people in need. If someone has lost their job due to COVID-19, they likely need more funds. Whether they have been ordered to pay or receive support funds, a modification in the order will help them continue to support themselves. With current court closures, Emergency Rule 13 can help petitioners avoid a months-long delay. The earlier effective date might be the difference between being able to pay rent or being evicted.
What Justifies a Support Modification
Whether a support order is in support of a child or a former spouse, modifications require similar circumstances. Support orders take the potential for minor changes into consideration when they’re first written. To get a support order modification, you need to be able to prove that there has been a “ material change in circumstances .”
Either party can request this modification, since either party might face serious financial changes. However, it’s important that the change be considered “material,” or substantial. If a serious decrease in income is the reason for the modification request, it must also have been out of the petitioner’s control. Loss of income from quitting a job without cause is unlikely to result in a support modification .
Losing a job due to COVID-19 closures, furloughs, or infection, on the other hand, is much more likely to be considered valid. It’s a substantial change in circumstances, and it’s unlikely to be considered preventable. As a result, whether you are the obligor or the obligee, you can likely file a support modification if COVID-19 has seriously affected your income.
What to Do If You Need a Support Modification
If you need a support modification, the process now looks much different than it did a few months ago. Even if you’ve filed a modification request before, the process under Emergency Rule 13 will be unfamiliar. Making sure that you follow the process correctly will help you make sure your modification request has the highest likelihood of success.
First, you need to fill out two forms: the Request for Order and the Income and Expense Declaration . These forms detail why you need the modification made in the first place. If you’re filing a child support modification request, you should also fill out the “Declaration Regarding Address Verification–Postjudgment Request to Modify a Child Custody, Visitation, or Child Support Order.”
You’ll need to make three copies of these forms along with the originals. Then have a third party mail one set of copies and one set of blank forms to your former partner. The third party will need to fill out a Proof of Service by Mail form.
You can mail or drop off two copies and the original files to your local court, along with your third party’s Proof of Service by Mail form and a copy. The court will file these forms and return them to you, stamped as “FILED.” Have your third party mail the stamped copies to your former partner, and fill out a new Proof of Service by Mail form, copy it, and send the original and the copy to your local court.
This new process will take more time than simply appearing in court, but it is currently the only option for many people. While courts remain closed for safety purposes, legal proceedings are still necessary. With the pandemic deeply affecting Californian’s livelihoods, more people than ever are in need of a support modification. This mail process, while not exactly streamlined, is the safest method for meeting the needs of Californians safely.
Of course, you don’t need to go through the whole process of following Emergency Rule 13 on your own. In fact, it may be better if you don’t. Like all legal proceedings, reaching out to a qualified attorney can help the process go smoothly from start to finish.
Working with an attorney who’s experienced in support modifications will help you confirm the details. They can safely mail forms for you, communicate with the courts, and follow up on questions and concerns. If you have recently experienced a material change in circumstances, don’t hesitate to reach out . We are here to support you, no matter how you need to modify your support order.