By James S. Margulis, Esq.
The 2013 government shutdown that has impacted millions of federal workers and lawmakers appears to be nowhere close to a solution, nearly two weeks after the government closed.
While a federal government shutdown may not affect your divorce or child custody matter in the sense that state courthouses are currently up and running, if you or your ex-spouse is a government employee, your matter may be affected.
FURLOUGHS & SUPPORT PAYMENTS
With approximately 41 percent of government workers now out on furlough, government workers who are no longer receiving pay may be concerned about keeping up with child support or maintenance payments and going into arrears.
Also, receivers of support who are now furloughed may not have support enough coming in to cover their living expenses. If the government shutdown continues, you want to consider filing a motion in family court to modify child support or maintenance payments or negotiate a contract regarding support payments during and after the shutdown.
MARKET AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION
If you are currently undergoing divorce proceedings and have financial interests that are affected by the current market, such as retirement benefits and stocks, it is important to discuss the government shutdown and the impact on your financial interests. This is especially true if you are nearing a settlement or divorce decree and what the valuation of the financial interest is on that day due to the current market.
For most, military pay is protected. The President signed Pay our Military Act into law which will provide pay and allowances to the service members who are part of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the new law does not cover pay for the Commissioned Corps of Public Health Services or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Generally, activated or mobilized National Guard and Reserve will be paid. Guardsmen and Reservists who are in support of excepted operations will be paid. Drills are being cancelled, and consequently, those Guardsmen and Reservists will not be paid for those drills.
On October 5, the Secretary of Defense announced that DOD civilian employees "whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members," will return to work. The Secretary's memorandum listed several activities where DOD civilian employees would be called back from furlough, including health care, family support programs, commissary operations and installation support.
Military retirees and survivor benefits are not dependent on regular appropriations. However, retirement checks could be delayed or reduced later in October when the federal government reaches the debt ceiling limit.
The Internal Revenue Service says more than 12 million taxpayers who filed for automatic extensions in the spring have tax returns due on Tuesday. Those returns, the agency says, are still due, regardless of the shutdown.
However, if you need to obtain old tax returns for your domestic matter, unfortunately you are out of luck until the government shutdown has ended due to no one manning the IRS helpline.
Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to be paid out, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. The Social Security Administration is also delaying the announcement of the size of next year's cost-of-living adjustment; however, the adjustment is estimated to be the one of the smallest increase in years. However, unemployment benefits are also still going out.
At the federal level, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding is cut off by the shutdown, but many states have funding available for carryover. The WIC (Women-Infant-Children) food assistance program may also be covered by state funds in the short term. If you are in need of emergency welfare assistance or help with paying for food, contact your local state social services office, which can provide assistance with locating appropriate help.
Some good news? Social security, veterans' benefits, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits should not be disrupted by the shutdown.
Please contact the Domestic Team at Feldmann Nagel Margulis to address any of these issues in regards to your domestic relations matters.