Divorced Couples & COVID-19 Stimulus Checks

Posted in Divorce,Family Law,Separation on June 9, 2020

The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has created different challenges for different people. The virus has affected families and individuals in unique ways based on their jobs, living situations and legal matters. Divorced couples, for example, may encounter issues related to their government-issued stimulus checks. On March 26, 2020, the Senate approved a $2 trillion stimulus package granting $1,200 per adult and $500 per child in economic impact payments. As someone who is divorced or in the middle of a divorce, learn how your familial situation could affect your stimulus check.

Who Gets the Settlement Check in a Pending Divorce Case?

The U.S. Treasury is using American citizens’ direct deposit information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to distribute stimulus checks. If the IRS has a bank account on file for your family from the last time you did your taxes (for 2018 or 2019), this is the account that will receive the stimulus check. If the IRS does not have a bank account on file for you, it will send your household a check instead.

If you and your spouse still share a joint account while your divorce case is pending, you may divide the stimulus check yourself equally. If, however, one of you took over the account that used to be your joint account, that person could receive the full value of the stimulus check. Your ex-spouse may hand over your portion of the check if you ask. Otherwise, be sure to list the lost stimulus payment as part of what your spouse owes you during the division of your marital assets.

Notify the IRS of the update to your filing status right away if you have not yet received your stimulus check. It might not be too late to tell the IRS about your divorce or separation and receive a separate stimulus check. Change your filing status through the IRS.gov website. Then, submit your 2019 taxes – filing as separated or single – as soon as possible if you have not already done so. Updating your filing status could help you avoid your ex-spouse receiving your stimulus check.

How Are the Payments for Children Allocated to Co-Parents?

Through the stimulus package, each household with children who were under the age of 17 as of the 2019 tax filing season will receive an additional $500 per child. Unfortunately, both co-parents will not receive $500 each. Each couple will only receive one $500 payment per child, delivered into the account of the parent with physical custody of the child, in most cases.

The parent who will receive the $500 child stipend is the one who listed the child as a dependent on his or her last tax return. If the wrong parent received the $500 payment for childcare, you will hopefully be able to work it out with your spouse. If not, you may take the matter to court electronically or via mail in Larimer County.

How Can Child Custody or Support Be Impacted?

COVID-19 may create cause for concern for many parents over the safety of their children as they travel from one household to the other. In most cases, parents can work out a temporary arrangement that is in the child’s best interests, such as skipping in-person visits and making them up at a later date, or continuing with the normal agreement with extra safety precautions. With a new temporary agreement, parents should submit the request to a judge to make it official. It is against the law for one parent to withhold custody from another parent, even during COVID-19.

COVID-19 also does not automatically release a parent from his or her child support responsibility. If the coronavirus has impacted a parent’s ability to work, resulting in a lack of funds to keep up with child support payments, it is that parent’s responsibility to submit a child support modification request to the courts. If a parent is behind in child support payments, the government may seize or garnish that person’s stimulus check to pay off the debt owed. For more information regarding the stimulus check and your particular situation, speak to a family law attorney near you.