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!

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.