How will COVID-19 affect my family law case?

If you have an active family law case, it may be impacted by certain restrictions imposed by Arizona’s courts. In March 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court issued Administrative Orders 2020-48 and 2020-51 in response to COVID-19, allowing Arizona’s courts to change their operations to respond to COVID-19. Not all courts have implemented the same changes to operations.

If you had a family law hearing or evaluation scheduled, filing or document requirements due, or were required to complete parenting classes, it is important to contact the court where your case was filed to know what schedules or deadlines might have changed. To find contact information for every court in Arizona visit: https://azcourthelp.org/home/find-my-court

Currently, most courts are closed to in-person hearings. That means that these courts will likely conduct family law hearings by telephone or video conferencing. If given the option, it is strongly recommended to participate in video conferencing instead of phone calls for family law hearings unless you or the court do not have the technology available.

Parenting Time and Visitation

How is my parenting plan affected by COVID-19?

Parents must comply with any existing parenting time order unless they agree otherwise, or until the orders are modified.

Legally, your current parenting plan is still in effect and has not changed because of COVID-19.  Right now, many parents want to know if they need to continue to follow their parenting plan if they are worried the other parent is taking an irresponsible attitude toward the COVID-19 potential exposure threat.

Understand that a parent who refuses, without good cause, to comply with a parenting time order is subject to legal penalties, which may include being held in contempt of court, fines, and sanctions.

  • A parent currently exercising parenting time/physical custody who is not entitled to it under the court-ordered parenting schedule must immediately return the children to the permitted parent.
  • The Court reminds parents that “[a]n order for sole legal decision-making does not allow the parent designated as sole legal decision-maker to alter unilaterally a court-ordered parenting time plan.” A.R.S. §25-403.01(C).
    • The same applies to a parent who has final decision-making authority under a legal decision-making order.

Child Support

Will I be in contempt if I can’t pay my support?
Contempt is a finding by the court of non-compliance with a court order. You are still obligated for paying child support when unemployed. If you were to skip payments, or be unable to pay, you will accrue interest. Consider doing one or more of the following if you find yourself unable to pay:

Stimulus Payments and Child Support

Will my federal stimulus check be subject to collections for child support like my tax refunds?

Yes. The Department of Child Support Services have procedures to collect past-due child support from federal tax returns and stimulus payments.  The CARES Act did not exempt stimulus payments to be free from paying child support arrears. 

If your tax refunds aren’t currently being applied towards your owed child support, your stimulus payment may or may not intercepted.

Employer Income Withholding Orders

Does my company still have to honor an income withholding order if the employee is being maintained under CARES?

Yes.  The compensation is viewed as income to the employee, and the income withholding order requires the company to withhold the appropriate amount of income for child support.  Arizona law requires that a company may only withhold up to 50% of the employee’s net disposable earnings each month.

Many thanks to Community Legal Services and Billie Tarascio, family law attorney at Modern Law, for their help.

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