Stimulus Checks: What To Know If You Owe Child Support or Share Custody

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Getty The IRS has said that stimulus check payments can be garnished if you owe child support.

As a new coronavirus relief measure is being negotiated, some parents are still figuring out the rules around dependents, child support and what their particular parenting situation may mean for funds.

There are some indications that the definitions of dependents and how much money a new coronavirus relief bill could provide for each dependent may change. The IRS also recently announced that it was extending the deadline for non-filers to claim the dependent portion of their stimulus payment until November 21.

Here’s what you need to know:


Can Both Parents of 1 Child of Whom They Share Custody Receive $500?

The IRS has been clear that the unmarried parents of a child cannot both claim that child as a dependent for the same year. Since stimulus check payments use dependent status to determine how much a parent can receive, the answer is no, two unmarried parents should not both receive $500 for the same child because they cannot both legally claim that child as a dependent in the same year.

“Parents who are not married to each other and do not file a joint return cannot both claim their qualifying child as a dependent,” according to the IRS. Under these guidelines, even parents who share 50/50 custody of children would not be eligible for economic impact dependent payments of $500.

However, the IRS has said the other parent may be able to receive an additional $500 next year for a child if they received nothing this year, but then claim that child on their taxes as a dependent for 2020. The IRS wrote:

The parent who claimed their child on their 2019 return may have received an additional Economic Impact Payment for their qualifying child. When the parent who did not receive an additional payment files their 2020 tax return next year, they may be able to claim up to an additional $500 per-child amount on that return if they qualify to claim the child as their qualifying child for 2020.

The qualifications regarding claiming children as dependents say children:

  • Must be under the age of 17 by the end of the year for which taxes are being filed
  • Must have a social security number or adoption taxpayer identification number
  • Must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or qualifying resident aliens of some kind

The IRS also noted that other family members such as grandchildren, nieces and nephews can be claimed as dependents if they meet similar criteria; if you are the guardians of such dependents, then you would be entitled to the additional $500 in your stimulus check.


If You Owe Child Support, Your Stimulus Check Could Be Garnished

CNET noted that even though the CARES Act insulated payments from being seized for several different types of debt, child support was not one of the exemptions. Being more than $150 in arrears (debt) of child support meant that the state could seize part or all of any stimulus payments and put it toward the child support balance.

According to the IRS, “If you owe past-due child support, your Payment will be offset. If your spouse does not owe child support, they will receive their portion of the payment and do not need to take any action to receive it.”

The IRS noted that although some spouses who were owed child support also saw their checks affected, the IRS was sending those people make-up payments:

The IRS is working with the Bureau of Fiscal Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. If you filed an injured spouse claim with your return and are impacted by this issue, you do not need to take any action. The injured spouse will receive their unpaid half of the total payment when the issue is resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused.

According to CNET, the Democrats’ $3.4 trillion proposed HEROES Act prevented stimulus checks from being used to “offset” child support, while the Republicans’ $1.3 trillion proposed HEALS Act allowed stimulus checks to be used to offset child support debt.

READ NEXT: Stimulus Checks 2: Would You Get $500 or $1,000 for Dependents?


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