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COVID-19 and Child and/or Spousal Support Modification Motions in San Diego Superior Court

In San Diego, many parents have current court orders for spousal support or child support or both. This is whether a divorce or paternity or legal separation. The Family Law Court is scheduled to be closed through May 25, 2020. During this time, limited filings for emergency legal matters including temporary restraining orders due to domestic violence and ex parte for custody for domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. On April 20, 2020, new Rules were adopted for procedures for reserving retroactivity for motions for termination and/or modification of spousal support and/or child support. If you have lost your income due to COVID 19 or another reason, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Doppelt and Forney, APLC for a free in-person or virtual consultation up to 30 minutes on the phone or by zoom. The confidential consultation will be with a licensed California attorney experienced in family law matters including modifications of support. You can call 800-769-4749 to schedule.

There were 13 new Rules adopted. The most relevant is Rule 13 for these Requests for Orders for modifications. Many in San Diego County have either been terminated, laid off or on furlough from their employment and have no income or much less income. The support order amount, which was made when income and employed, is no longer correct amount since the guideline calculates from income. As the San Diego Family Law Court is closed and not accepting filings for motions for modification of support [Request for Order], there was no legal method to file to preserve retroactivity to the date of the filing of the motion for modification which was the standard. The Court has now modified to allow for retroactivity by the Court by following the below procedures. These are technical and need to be complied with in order to request retroactivity and is within the Judge’s discretion. There are many Family Law Codes which apply to child support and spousal support orders and amounts. For the purposes of this article, focusing on Family Law Codes 4333, 3653, 3602 & 3591.

An order modifying or terminating a support order [whether child or spousal], except as provided in Family Law Code Section 3653(b) may be prepared and served pending Court re opening. This order may be made effective the date that the Request for Order and supporting pleadings/documents are mailed or served in another manner in accord with law. If the opposing party has an attorney, then the motion and pleadings/documents may be served on the attorney when permitted. As the pleadings cannot be filed prior to May 25, 2020, they must also be filed when Court re opens and the party requesting the modification must then serve a conformed copy [file stamped by Court] in addition to the unconformed copy. It is the burden of the moving party to file appropriate proofs of service for both the unconformed and conformed copies of the pleadings for the request for retroactivity to the date of service of the unconformed copies. For many, support orders can be hundreds or thousands of dollars per month. As the hearing for the support modification may not take place for months, a reservation of jurisdiction allows the Judge to make any modification orders retroactive which protects the legal rights of the parent or spouse requesting the modification. This is essential when a change of circumstances and no income on which the support order was based. Rule 13 will remain in effect until 90 days after the Governor of California declares that the State of Emergency due to the COVID 19 pandemic is (1) lifted or (2) amended or (3) repealed by the Judicial Council of the State of California.

These are most difficult times for all in San Diego. While some law firms are closed completely, Doppelt and Forney, APLC is available to assist remotely with consultations, preparation of pleadings, filings as available under current procedures and legal advice with all aspects of family law. Whether you have a legal emergency with modifying your support or need to start the divorce process, the attorneys at Doppelt and Forney, APLC will help during this crisis. It is crucial to make the most informed and intelligent decisions regarding your case and future.

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