The coronavirus pandemic is creating some of the more unique issues for our family law courts that we have ever experienced. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) that was enacted last Friday will not likely reduce issues that must be resolved when courts reopen for business. Two pressing issues created by the coronavirus relief bill involve child support payments and the relief payments for children.
Parties must be current on child support
If you’re a parent paying child support, you better be current if you expect to receive a stimulus check. The CARES Act provides that an otherwise eligible recipient who owes past due child support will not be receiving a relief check. In fact, the only administrative offset that appears to apply to the relief checks will be for those owing back child support that have been reported to the Treasury Department.
For those who didn’t realize that the Treasury Department keeps track of child support, yes they do. Since 1996, the Treasury Department has operated a program that allows past due child support to be collected by withholding federal payments as an offset for child support owed. For the Treasury to collect though, the state must report information on people who are behind on their payments. What happens if you are behind on child support and you receive a relief check? Chances are, aggressive attorneys everywhere will be trying to seize the opportunity and ask the court to intervene to obtain that payment. Just like any asset available to collect against, relief payments are fair game to pay a child support arrearage.
Who claims the $500 per child relief payment?
Another issue at this time is who will get to claim the $500 per child payment? In a divided household, will the mother or the father get to claim the $500? The IRS will be sending the check to the party who claimed the child in 2019, or 2018 if the child was not claimed in 2019. If you are alternating who gets to claim the child, the person who claimed the child in 2018 should receive the check because the stimulus check is actually just a credit against a future tax credit you will take on your 2020 taxes.
The party who is claiming the child in 2020 should be the party to receive the stimulus check. It is likely though that the checks will end up with the party who claimed the child in 2019, however, the stimulus credit will follow the social security number of the child claimed, meaning the amount of the credit will be offset for the party claiming the child in 2020. Therefore, the party claiming the child in 2020 should receive the stimulus money, even if it must be paid directly from one parent to the other or is offset by the court.
There’s no question Covid-19 is creating a lot of issues for us all, and we’re operating in very unprecedented times, but as in any other situation, the default procedure will be to comply with your decree and custody order. You should also address specific Covid-19 questions to a qualified family law attorney who can help you navigate your decree, your judge, and your opposing counsel because it remains the best option to work with the other side to resolve these issues amicably to protect your family and avoid unnecessary litigation.
The family law attorneys at Ball Morse Lowe are ready and prepared to help you navigate your custody issues involving coronavirus and the CARES Act. We are available for virtual meetings today at 405-701-5355 to identify how we may assist you.