Will the Government Shutdown Affect Your Divorce?

2018 update! On Friday, December 21, 2018, the U.S. federal government partially shutdown due to conflicting views on government funding. With no end in sight, and the holidays upon us, what could a prolonged government shutdown mean for your divorce? For a preview, let’s take a look at what happened during the last major shutdown in 2013…

Since the federal government shut down at midnight Tuesday, over 800,000 federal employees across dozens of agencies have been furloughed and many service-providing governmental departments and agencies across the country are now closed or running on limited staff. How can the government shutdown affect divorce proceedings and other related issues, including child support and alimony payments? Here are four key concerns:

IRS Helpline Closed & Refund Delays: The IRS is still open to accept tax payments. However, if you need to call the IRS for help in locating old tax records as you gather financial documents needed for your divorce or have other questions about filing taxes when you are getting divorced, you are going to be out of luck. As of yesterday, no one was picking up the phones at the IRS helpline, which is deemed a “nonessential” task of the agency. Similarly, the refund processing department is running on limited staff, meaning that if you are expecting a tax refund check as part of your divorce settlement, you might be waiting longer than expected.

Furloughs & Support Payments: With approximately 41 percent of government workers now out on furlough and members of the U.S. military working essentially on IOUs after their next paycheck, government workers who are no longer receiving pay may be concerned about keeping up with child support or alimony payments. At the same time, receivers of support who are now furloughed may not have enough coming in to cover their child’s expenses or their own living expenses. If the government shutdown continues, you may need to think about filing a motion in family court to modify child support or alimony/spousal support payments, or making other contingencies.

Business Owners & Mortgages: If you took over sole ownership of the family business during your divorce and applied for a federal small business loan to get started on the right foot, be aware that federal SBA loan applications are now on hold. Likewise, if you were planning to buy a house after a divorce and needed a federal loan, you may have to wait due to furloughs for HUD administrators.

Welfare: 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 into the new fiscal year. 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 New Jersey social services office, which can provide assistance with locating appropriate help.

Some good news? Social security, SSI, veterans payments, Medicaid, unemployment benefits should not be disrupted by the shutdown.

Update for 2018: Have a matter in federal court? Here’s some more good news. Federal courts will be open Monday and remain open until their funds run out in approximately 3 weeks, according to Law.com. Let’s hope a compromise will be have been reached by then!