Dear Carolyn,

How can I possibly navigate custody exchanges and joint parenting during this pandemic? My ex is not adhering to the social distancing. He is having play dates with his girlfriend’s children and my children. Can I get emergency custody away from the father to protect the children from COVID 19?


Carolyn Answers,

The things you do for your children now are imperative. A motion to modify your existing child custody order may be an excellent strategic move, particularly if you feel the other parent is putting your children at risk for COVID-19. The facts of your unique case will determine whether the court might view that your children are actually at risk for COVID-19 at the other parent’s home. For example, a severely asthmatic child has more risk than a child with no known health issues. The history of compliance with court orders before this pandemic will also play into how a judge might view your case. Interstate travel, known exposure and type of work a parent does (healthcare worker, for example) may play into the intricate facts of your case.

The courts are closed, so there will not be a fast solution. But, acting now will position your case to your best advantage. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

There is an exception in every order we have seen that exempts court-ordered visitation exchanges from the shelter-in-place order. Therefore, you should continue exchanging the children at the time and location required by the order.

Emergency custody has very specific requirements under North Carolina law. There are three situations for emergency custody: (1) substantial risk of sexual abuse; (2) substantial risk of bodily injury to a child; or (3) risk that the child might be abducted or removed from the jurisdiction of North Carolina. The courts are closed for most cases until after April 17, but emergency custody is an exception.

Ask the father to please use some form of video chat, such as Zoom or Facetime, for your children to play with friends. It is best practice to keep your children in the home and their own backyard.



Dear Carolyn,

How do I get my stimulus check?


Carolyn Answers,

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plans to use your last filed return to determine where to send your stimulus money. If the IRS has your direct deposit automated clearing house (ACH) information, that is where the stimulus money will go. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit ACH information, you will receive the check or perhaps a debit card more slowly, as the IRS is looking at ways to avoid sending paper checks.

The IRS is supposed to send the first payments within three weeks of March 27, 2020, when the CARES legislation passed Congress and President Trump signed it into law.

Singles with adjusted gross income equal to or less than $75,000 will be eligible for up to $1,200. Joint filers with adjusted gross income equal to or less than $150,000 will be eligible for up to $2,400. There is also a $500 payment for each qualifying child.

The stimulus payment will phase-out if your income exceeds $75,000 as a single person and $150,000 for joint filers. Between $75,000 and $99,000, the payment amount is reduced pro-rata. There will be no payments to individuals making more than $99,000. These numbers double for joint filers.

You do not have to apply to get the check. If you have filed a federal income tax return in the last two years, you will automatically get a check.

The amount of your stimulus check is not taxable income to you. The IRS will not contact you by email about your stimulus check.



Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to Ask Carolyn at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in Ask Carolyn are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn. Ask Carolyn is a regular column, but not necessarily weekly.