On March 27, 2020, Congress and President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion spending bill known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law, intending to offset the economic damages of the coronavirus pandemic. This spending bill includes a one-time payment to eligible American taxpayers. 

Most individual taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of up to $75,000 will get $1,200; married couples with AGIs up to $150,000 will get $2,400. Above those amounts, payments will decrease. Households will receive $500 for each qualifying child. 

While this money will be welcomed as a relief from the financial strain families are feeling, the additional funds are raising questions among divorced and separated families that have – or are working on – child support and alimony agreements. 

Impact of stimulus checks

If you are recently divorced, you may wonder how the $500 for each child will be handled in the stimulus check distribution. 

Who gets the money?

Payments are based on the 2018 and 2019 tax returns. For parents who haven’t filed their 2019 tax return, the payment will be based on which parent claimed the child(ren) in 2018. 

For parents who filed a joint return in 2018, were divorced in 2019, and neither has filed a 2019 return, the CARES Act provides that the payment will be directly deposited to the bank or credit union account identified on the 2018 return. If that account has been closed, the joint payable refund check will be sent to the address on the 2018 return.

I’m in the middle of a divorce and my spouse received the payment. What if they don’t share it with me?

Couples who are in the process of divorcing should note that if your stimulus money is based on a joint tax return from 2018 or 2019, the stimulus payment is considered marital property. If your spouse isn’t willing to divide the payment or use the money in a mutually agreed-upon manner, you should speak to an attorney about how this money might be recovered later in the divorce.

Because of COVID, I’m late on child support. Do I still get a check?

Most individuals should receive their whole entitlement. However, if you’re behind on child support or alimony payments, it’s possible that the money will be withheld and applied to your child support balance. 

COVID-19’s impact on child support, alimony, and divorce in New Jersey

Questions about the stimulus check arise among many larger questions about how COVID-19 will impact child support, alimony, and other divorce agreement issues. Individuals should remember that divorce agreements and everything contained therein are binding by the courts. . 

Although arrangements like child support and alimony are calculated using different approaches, they can both be changed if there are changes in circumstances, such as job loss, changed financial circumstances, disability, or serious illness. All of the aforementioned circumstances aren’t just a possibility during the coronavirus pandemic – it’s already a reality for many.

The Family Court in New Jersey has already issued guidance as to how individuals should proceed with fulfilling their child support and alimony obligations. While typically courts don’t approve modifications of payments for temporary changes in circumstances, the widespread impact of COVID will likely cast a different light on requests. 

Child support and alimony payments are still due and are being processed. Failure to pay may result in penalties. Courts are still conducting child support proceedings, hearings, and appointments, albeit remotely. 

Individuals facing financial constraints due to the pandemic should work with their attorneys to request modifications. If you have any questions about your current situation and payments, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help: Schedule Your Consult Now

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