Dealing with the financial side effects of the Coronavirus has certainly been challenging for almost everyone in Georgia, but it presents specific issues for divorced parents. To assist the many people who have lost income due to changes in employment status or the healthcare costs incurred if you or a family member is battling Covid, Congress passed the CARES Act (short for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) as well as the second round of payments, issued to most people in January of 2021.
The division of these government stimulus checks presents uncharted waters for divorced parents. Our family law attorneys at Family Matters Law Group understand the questions you may have surrounding these issues. After all, all of these matters are due to living in these unprecedented times, including trying to navigate circumstances none of us have been in before. It’s certainly a tad confusing, but allow us to share some information with you to help you begin to untangle those knots.
Children can’t be claimed by two parents who no longer file joint taxes. Only one parent can file as head of household, usually the custodial parent. So, determining which parent gets the stimulus check for a dependent child or children is decided based on the last parent to have claimed the child(ren) on their 2019 tax return (or the 2018 tax return if neither parent filed one in 2019.) Technically, it’s based on 2020 tax credits, but since people need funds immediately, the government will be using prior years’ tax returns in their determination.
The first round of checks allotted $500 per child. The second round gave parents $600 per child. There’s a proposed third set of checks, but the amounts have not yet been determined.
If you’re not the custodial parent, which is designated as the parent the child(ren) spends a larger percentage of time with, you may not be entitled to half regardless of an agreement of joint custody. However, if there was an error as to which parent received the check, whether that was you or your ex, you may need to seek legal advice in order to avoid any hassles. You don’t want this to end up in court or have it damage effective co-parenting, especially if it’s currently amicable. As in marriage, almost nothing causes greater division in divorce as the handling of finances.
Similarly, if the stimulus for adult individuals went into a joint account you once held with your ex that you no longer have access to, you need to consult with an attorney to plan your next steps. If you’re the one who received the entire sum, you’ll also need to seek legal advice, as there can be consequences to withholding half of the stimulus from your ex, which may arise in the future in court if not handled properly at the outset.
Only the first disbursement of checks allowed for garnishment of all or part of the amount of stimulus funds, depending on how much back child support was owed. For the second check, this wasn’t permitted. Policy on the upcoming proposed third round of stimulus payments remains to be seen, but in all probability, garnishment of stimulus funds won’t be allowed going forward. As the new administration is currently hashing out these matters, we’ll have to wait and see the details as they become available to be sure of the policies going forward.
If you’re dealing with issues around stimulus funds, whether yours, those of your former spouse, or your child(ren), seeking expert advice is your smartest bet to avoid complications. If you live in Georgia and reside in Henry, Clayton, or Fayette counties, Family Matters Law Group is here for you. Please feel free to reach out to us to schedule a consultation to address your specific concerns. You may call us at (678) 545-2118 or contact us through our website if you prefer. We look forward to serving you with dedication and compassion during these uncertain, challenging times.