Coronavirus and the amount of maintenanceApril 13, 2020
Author: attorney Justyna Plewińska
The state of the epidemic affects both the personal and professional life of most Poles. Coronavirus significantly affects maintenance. In addition to health, a cause for concern is the deteriorating financial situation, especially of those who have dependent children. Will the spreading coronavirus affect the amount of maintenance ?
At the moment, there are no court decisions that would refer to the impact of the epidemic on the amount of the maintenance obligation . There are also no new laws regulating the above issue. The problem is noticed by legal circles (e.g. the Ombudsman for Citizens' Rights asked the Minister of Justice to include in the works on another amendment to the special act COVID-19 the issue of alimony and their enforcement https://www.rpo.gov.pl/pl/content/koronawirus- alimenty-kontakt-z-child ), mainly due to signals from customers that they are not able to regulate maintenance , but also by bailiffs, who receive applications for suspension of enforcement proceedings, because the obligated do not have the means to pay monthly maintenance installment.
Can I stop paying maintenance?
Taking into account the above and based on the provisions that we have at our disposal today, it should be noted that the state of the coronavirus epidemic does not give grounds for ceasing to pay maintenance or reducing the amount paid so far as maintenance , without taking appropriate formal action - courts or other authorities do not take lowering or increasing child support ex officio, i.e. without your petition.
What can you do to change the amount of maintenance?
The following modes of operation are possible:
1. Parental agreement - this is the first step that should be tried in order to reduce the scope of the maintenance obligation. Often, parents' relationships are not the best, so it is difficult for them to imagine the possibility of reaching an agreement - but taking into account such extraordinary circumstances as the coronavirus epidemic, which no one has probably imagined, it is worth making this attempt. An argument may be that the situation has recently changed so drastically that there is a high probability that the Court will take into account the new circumstances anyway - it is better to conclude an agreement in which, for example, both parents will agree on maintenance issues for the next 3 months; A proposal may also be to share childcare equally, so that their daily costs are borne by the parents to the same extent.
2.If enforcement is conducted - an application is sent to the parent enforcing alimony to suspend / discontinue the enforcement proceedings - then the parent enforcing the maintenance decides on the scope of the enforcement, and therefore it is to him, and not to the bailiff, any requests to limit / discontinue the enforcement proceedings . Of course, verbal communication is most advisable - it is important that the result is a settlement and suspension of the bailiff's actions by the parent who enforces maintenance on behalf of the child.
3. When it is not possible to reach an agreement on the amount of maintenance , the only thing left to do is refer the case to the court for the reduction of maintenance and submit an application for securing the claim (in pending cases, the application for security remains to be submitted). Of course, in view of the limitations in the functioning of the courts, it is not possible to clearly say when such a case will be heard, although it should be emphasized that the specific application for security is the tool that should allow for faster determination of a new amount of maintenance (if the application is well prepared, the court can recognize it even without a hearing). Of course, it is necessary to show how each parent's financial situation has changed, as well as that of the child. It is important that, in view of the prevailing restrictions, the costs of maintaining a child have most likely changed, because, for example, he does not attend extracurricular activities, does not go on trips, does not bear the costs of commuting to school, etc. Of course, each case will be considered individually, because each from parents, as a result of the prevailing epidemic, may have financial problems. It may also turn out that the situation of the parent who takes care of the child on a daily basis has worsened and the parent who paid child support has improved - then the possibility of increasing the maintenance (depending on the child's needs, of course) or leaving it unchanged
As for the time in which the case will be considered - due to the provisional nature of all solutions, it is difficult to indicate a probable date. Theoretically, requests for collateral should enjoy the privilege of "fixing" them immediately, but there is no court practice to deal with these issues (of course, it is practice during an epidemic). It is worth noting that even if the cases presented above will be considered after the epidemic ends, the fact that for e.g. 3 months or longer, the parent did not have any income, because he had to suspend his activity or had a downtime at work and received lower remuneration, it will affect his financial situation and thus the inability to pay maintenance in a certain amount.
It should also be remembered that, in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Code currently in force - maintenance arrears above the amount for a total of 3 months - is a crime. Therefore, I warn you against evading the payment of maintenance and not taking any formal action to settle the matter.
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