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Legal Issues

Navigating Family Law Questions During the Covid-19 Pandemic - April 2, 2020

Q: I was in the middle of my case before the COVID-19 pandemic happened, can we still keep moving forward?

Yes, but there may be some delays. Most of the scheduled hearings will move forward, but they may be telephonic hearings or by written arguments. If you have a family law trial scheduled prior to May 4, 2020, this will be continued to a later date set by the Court.

We will continue to work on any deadlines that you have in your case. On documents that generally require your signature or a notary, the Iowa Supreme Court has issued an Order that temporarily waives the requirement of notarization. If authorized by the client, attorneys are temporarily able to electronically sign using “/s/” or “person’s name”.

Q: What types of family law cases is notarization temporarily not needed?

The temporary waiver of notarization applies to these family law cases:

  • Petition for Relief from Domestic Abuse
  • Affidavit to Start Contempt Proceedings (Domestic Abuse)
  • Request to Cancel or Change a Chapter 236 Protective Order (Domestic Abuse)
  • 1901—Form 7: Dissolution of Marriage–Affidavit of Financial Status
  • 1901—Form 11: Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and Child Support Obligation Pursuant to Iowa Code Section 600B.41A(7)
  • 36—Form 26: Claim for Attorney or Physician’s Fees Order and Certificate

Q: I still need to complete the Children in the Middle course, what should I do?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court has approved three online courses to satisfy the Children in the Middle class requirement.

Everyone who is required to take the class is responsible to contact the provider, register, pay the fee, complete and file the completion certificate with the court for the class they have chosen. The parties in the case do not have to take the same online class.

The Court's authorization to complete Children in the Middle class online shall remain in effect until rescinded by the Court at a later date.

Q: What happens to the visitation/custody schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Parents should continue to follow the school schedule as outlined in their decree with regard to custody, visitation, or a care schedule.

It is important to note that a school closure caused by COVID-19 does not extend or modify a parent’s custody, care, or visitation beyond the current decree. Anyone currently withholding visitation from the other parent and not following the decree should immediately return the children and follow the court ordered schedule.

Q: Is it okay if we work out a different arrangement based on our schedules for custody and visitation as long as the same amount of time is offered to the non-primary care parent?

Yes. Both parents can mutually agree to modify a previous court order as long as they are working together for the safety, wellness, and best interests of their children. An example of this is one parent assisting with schoolwork during the day so that the other parent can work if the parents have different work schedules.

Parents cannot modify the schedule such that the non-primary care parent receives less time with the children. 

Q: What do I do if the opposing party has the virus?

Parents should work together for the best interests of the children, follow CDC guidelines, and protect each member of the family to the extent possible from COVID-19.

If one parent is infected, you should have a discussion with the other parent and consider removing the children from that situation if at all possible, unless the child has been exposed to and/or diagnosed with COVID-19. The parent should self-isolate while infected and after recovered, may be able to get make-up time with the children in order to compensate for the loss of time. Being flexible and working together during this time is important and will determine the success of the visitation schedule during this stressful time.

Q: In the event of a shelter in place, do we continue with the custody order?

Yes. Unless and until an order specifically states that that custody is impacted, the regular visitation schedule should continue per the decree.

Q: If I have concerns about COVID-19 and visitation with the other parent, what should I do?

Joint legal custodians should have an open dialogue and discuss proper hygiene care with your children and work toward a common goal of protecting the health and welfare of your children.

Q: Do I still need to pay my child support and/or alimony during this time?

Yes, you should follow all current court orders until you have a modification from the court. If you are struggling with these payments or have been laid off based on COVID-19, you should contact your attorney to discuss whether filing a modification of the current order is appropriate, especially if your layoff will not just be temporary in nature.

Q: If I’m divorced, what happens with the $500 stimulus money per child?

This will likely go to the parent who claimed the child on their taxes for the last tax year.

Q: Where will the stimulus checks go if I was divorced in 2019?

If you have not filed your taxes for 2019, the stimulus check will likely be deposited electronically in the account where the 2018 refund was filed. Keep in mind, this account may be an account that belongs to an opposing party if one party kept the joint banking account after the divorce. Parties should work together to discuss this and be as transparent as possible to ensure that one party is not keeping both checks if the parties are entitled to two separate checks based on their income.

Davis Brown Law Firm blogs, legal updates, and other content are for educational and informational purposes only. This is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney/client relationship between Davis Brown and readers. Each circumstance is different; readers should consult an attorney to understand how this content relates to their personal situation. You should not use Davis Brown blogs or content as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Reproduction of Davis Brown content without written consent is prohibited.