Divorced parents have so many things to deal with in our new pandemic afflicted world. COVID-19 has changed everything and we are all eager for a return to normal. Until then, there are some very important things divorced parents will need to know.
Do you have questions about how your divorced status affects stimulus checks? Is there anything you can do to anticipate problems and reduce conflict with regard to co-parenting? We will share what we have found to help ease some of the challenges divorced families might encounter, and to help you with some important information that will hopefully make your life easier.
Coronavirus and Divorce: Issues Around Custody And Visitation
Questions about custody, visitation, and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak are front of mind for many divorced parents. Some parents have wondered if custody agreements and visitation should remain the same even with the risk of spreading the disease. These “stay at home” orders do not alter custody or visitation agreements and some states have even stipulated that in the language. Unless it is clarified in the law, experts are stating that the pandemic does not affect visitation or custody and to transfer the children would be an “essential” activity.
Where those transfers occur has become an issue for some divorced parents because the usual “neutral” locations, like schools, parks, libraries and sports groups are closed down. If you follow us at Affordable Mediation, you know that we would advise all parents to work together cooperatively. That is the ideal because that works out the best for both parties rather than allowing anxieties to cause conflict. Keeping these interactions as calm and stress free as possible is absolutely the best for the children so families should work together towards that goal.
How can you do this when this subject is so important? The answer is communication. Even when it is challenging, we advise finding the least contentious communication method and work out a plan for your co-parenting in the age of COVID-19. You will have a great deal of pride in handling such complicated issues with caring and foresight rather than wallowing in stress and unpleasantness. Sometimes, this isn’t under your control and then you are stuck with finding a way to make peace with what you CAN do.
As a typical example, divorced parents are coming into conflict over social distancing and a difference of opinion in how that should be implemented. This is a firecracker, in some cases, because it involves judgment and the incendiary topic of their children’s safety. If you need help with any of this, please reach out to us, we are expert mediators and are here to serve.
Arizona’s Supreme Court Weighs in on Co-Parenting and Coronavirus
The Arizona Supreme Court recently released a set of guidelines for divorced parents who share custody. The bottom line is that the parenting plan you agreed to is still in force. Here are some highlights of the court’s pandemic guidelines:
- You must comply with the existing parenting plans unless you both agree on any temporary changes.
- One parent cannot deny the other their parenting time; however, for the health of your family and the community, please use common sense.
- Treat school holidays the same, even though your kids may be home from school. That includes time for spring break, summer break and holidays.
- If one parent tests positive for COVID-19, you should consider a temporary modification to allow for the 14-day quarantine.
- If your parenting plan stipulates meeting in public places, do it where you can maintain social distancing and avoid “common-contact” places where people can transfer the virus.
- If parenting time is supervised and the supervisor is not available, the parents should make accommodations to continue the visits.
- Right now, there is no restriction on travel for parenting time. Should that change, you should still do what you can to ensure scheduled parenting times.
- When you exchange the kids, follow the CDC guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
- Be open and transparent about these issues with your kids.
- If your child ends up missing time with one parent, do your best to schedule make-up time.
- Finally, as first responders are busy taking care of us during the pandemic, do not call them for parenting issues. Only call them in cases of emergency.
Coronavirus and Visitation: What If One Parents Becomes Ill?
There is also the issue of addressing how to handle it if one parent becomes ill with COVID-19. Would the children continue ordinary visitation, even during quarantine? This needs to be ironed out and it is our suggestion that you find a way to anticipate and plan for these possibilities ahead of time so that you can be prepared — including a temporary modification. This will reduce the amount of stress should the worst happen.
Information on Stimulus Checks for Divorced Parents
Now onto the very practical question of who gets the stimulus money for the children of divorced parents.
The simple answer is that the stimulus money goes to the parent that claims the child as a dependent on their taxes. How much you will receive depends on your previous year’s taxes. In the event you haven’t filed taxes for 2019, then 2018 is used to determine the amount.
The amount is based on your AGI, adjusted gross income, found on line 8b of the 1040 tax form for 2019. If you are using the 2018 tax form it is Line 7 of your 1040 tax form.
The starting point for this stimulus round is that individuals earning $75,000 or less will get $1200 and then there are additional funds, up to $500 per child, for children claimed as dependents. As the individual’s earnings increase, the amount of the payment decreases and single filers earning more than $99,000 are not eligible. Check out this calculator for some helpful estimates : http://dig.abclocal.go.com/ccg/stimulus-calculator/index.html . The IRS refers to this stimulus check as an “Economic Impact Payment” and clarifies that the “… vast majority of people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to those eligible.” and further informs us that the payment “will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the return filed.” The IRS coronavirus update page indicates that checks will begin going out in April.
We’ll update this information as developments occur
Help for Divorced Parents During the Coronavirus Pandemic
So, what help is out there for divorced parents managing the complexities of life during the pandemic? Well, we are here to help, please reach out to us if we can be of service, and, of course, we suggest reaching out to family, friends, and professional counselors to assist with difficult issues.
We also want to share concrete information so here is a summary of the document published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) who put together a list of 7 guidelines for divorced and separated parents in this difficult time. They titled it “Seven Guidelines for Parents who are Divorced/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic” and it is subtitled, “From the leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis”.
They have the 7 guidelines of:
- Be Healthy
- Be Mindful
- Be Compliant
- Be Creative
- Be Transparent
- Be Generous
- Be Understanding
Under each of these headings they clarify their meaning. They encourage parents to be informed and aware of the danger of the Coronavirus, to wash hands and sanitize surfaces. They go over their recommendation to be careful of how they speak in front of children, and remind us that parents need to remain compliant with court orders and custody arrangements. They stressed flexibility and communication as vital to managing life during this pandemic and they recommend being understanding of the other parent’s challenges as well.
Keep Your Family Healthy
Ultimately, we all want to emerge from this time ready to launch back into healthy routines and normal socializing, work, school and vacation schedules, but divorced parents need support and good information to be their best so they can be confident in how they handled themselves during this historic experience.