Most of the country is under a lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A lot of people are out of work, barely making ends meet, and are struggling to collect unemployment. There was a great relief when the President announced that every tax-paying citizen would receive a stimulus check in this time of crisis. However, with that sigh of relief, some of us also received potentially heartbreaking news – we may not receive a stimulus check at all.
If you or your spouse are currently behind on child support, your stimulus check could be affected. Whereas the CARES Act suspends certain debts – such as student loans or back taxes – it does not currently apply to delinquent child support payments. Since the check amount is based on your most recent tax filing, if you filed jointly with a spouse that owes child support, you may receive a reduced amount from the stimulus, or no check at all.
Even if you filed for injured spouse relief when you filed your tax return, you may still find that your stimulus check is garnished or reduced dramatically. Typically, the IRS works with the Office of Child Support Enforcement. The amount garnished or withheld because of back child support, the money will get intercepted by the appropriate collecting office and be distributed to the custodial parent, the one that is owed child support. The time it takes for this money to arrive will vary, depending on that state’s collecting office.
If you are behind on child support payments, and are out of work due to the pandemic, your unemployment checks could also be affected. If you claim unemployment and there is a child support order in place, you can have support payments withheld from your unemployment check. A few states have limited the amount to 50% of each check, so that people who owe child support can still collect their unemployment money. Other states may garnish wages differently for back child support amounts.
If you are having trouble paying your child support, get a request on file with the court that issued the child support order seeking time to catch up based on your situation. Delaying taking action will only make matters worse!