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New Questions in Family Law Related to COVID 19

I hope you all are doing well, dear readers. Governor Kemp's announcement that shelter in place will be extended in Georgia until the end of April has been difficult for the majority of the people. The quarantine in Georgia so far is not as effective as we hoped. The number of people that have been diagnosed with coronavirus and tested positive is still growing exponentially, and death toll in Georgia is still terrifying. As Governor Kemp admitted today, radically re-opening Georgia won't help those numbers.

Still, family law attorneys in Georgia continue to stay very busy. We had only a second to relax after Gov Kemp issued a highly controversial Executive order on April 3, 2020 expanding the definition of Essential Services and clarifying enforcement provisions in Executive Order to confirm that traveling for visitation and custody exchanges is not prohibited during the shelter in place state of emergency in Georgia. However, such clarification has not resolved all the issues, but definitely helped to obtain some guidance and uniformity for some cases.

Moreover, Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act brought a lot of new questions to the family law practitioners in Georgia. One of the questions that we at The Manely Firm, P.C. have been asked a number of times is whether or not Coronavirus stimulus payments are subject to division in divorce. It's difficult to respond to a question like that overall without knowing specifics of a particular situation, but if we have to generalize, and (1) you and your spouse filed tax return jointly as married couple in 2019 or 2018 which (2) qualified your family for stimulus payment (refundable tax credit) and (3) you are still married and your divorce is pending, such credit is subject to division in divorce proceeding. Of course, the best way to figure out the right course of action is to consult with your tax lawyer in addition to your family attorney. At this point, the government is only starting to issue stimulus payments and I am sure more problems will come to light as time progresses.

Another situation where a lot of new issues and situations appeared is division of retirements and pension following the outbreak of coronavirus. That is not surprising considering that all retirement accounts have lost value post the COVID 19 outbreak and that financial markets are super unstable. Since some provisions of division of retirements accounts include market losses and gains between the valuation date of the retirement accounts and actual division date. Correct wording in divorce decrees and settlement agreements are especially important for people who want to minimize the risk.

I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Wherever there are people, there will be controversy. Throw in a little money and the controversy moves from skirmish to all out war.

Let us know if we can help you with any issues related to family law during crazy COVID- 19 pandemic times.

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