If Someone Owes You Child Support, Do You Get Their Coronavirus Check?
Behind on your taxes? You get a coronavirus stimulus check. Have delinquent federal student loans? You still get a stimulus check.
But if you owe child support? You’ve probably heard that you won’t get a coronavirus check in that case. Or that if someone owes you child support and their payment is seized by the IRS, you’ll get it.
The rules for the second stimulus check are different than they were the first time around. With the $1,200 payments that went out earlier this year, people who owed child support had their stimulus checks seized. But for the $600 payments that President Trump approved Sunday night, even people who are behind on child support can expect a check.
10 FAQs About Stimulus Checks and Child Support
Here’s what you need to know about stimulus checks if you owe child support or someone owes you.
1. What are the rules for the second stimulus check if you owe child support?
The CARES Act contained a provision that allowed most people to get the first stimulus checks, even if their refunds are typically seized because they owe the federal or state government money through the Treasury Offset Provision. But there was one exception: The provision didn’t include people who owe child support. The latest stimulus bill doesn’t exclude people who are behind on child support, so you can still expect a check even if you owe your child’s other parent.
2. What were the rules for the first checks?
The IRS could only seize your first coronavirus check if you’re in the Treasury Offset Program due to unpaid child support. Think of it this way: If your tax refunds are seized because you owe child support, your coronavirus check will be, too.
But to get into this system, your state child enforcement agency needs to know that you’re behind — which it would if the custodial parent reported your nonpayment or if you missed payments you make directly to the state.
Your state will then submit information about your missed payments to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, which reports that information to the Treasury.
How long does this take? It varies by state, according to Seth C. Weston, a Roanoke, Virginia-based attorney whose practice includes family law.
“For instance, the Virginia Department of Child Support Enforcement generally won’t take enforcement action until there is $5,000 in arrears,” Weston said.
“It can take anywhere from weeks to months,” said Adam Turbowitz, a New York family attorney with Aronson Mayefsky and Sloan, LLP. “In New York, there’s a huge [child support] case backlog. We’re talking 30-, 60-, 90-day backlogs.”
Once you’ve been reported to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, you’ll get a pre-offset notice with information about how to contest the debt before you’re officially placed in the Treasury Offset Program.
3. Should I have been notified if my first coronavirus check was seized for child support?
The IRS says the Bureau of the Fiscal Services will send you a letter. If you’ve had tax refunds offset because you’ve owed child support, you would have gotten a letter at that time, as well.
You can call the Treasury Offset Program system at 800-304-3107 to see if you’re in it.
4. I have no income right now. Is there a hardship exception that would allow me to get the first check?
5. My ex owes me child support. Does that mean I get their first coronavirus check?
Possibly, provided that your ex was eligible for a check and your state has reported that they’re delinquent to the Treasury Offset Program.
If you get your ex’s tax refund, you’d probably get their coronavirus check as well.
6. Why didn’t I get the extra money for unpaid child support when I got the first check?
If their check was intercepted, it would have first gone to the state agency that’s responsible for child support enforcement. That agency is then responsible for disbursing the check.
“The payment is typically sent to the receiver by the same method the receiver gets their tax refunds,” Weston said.
7. If the other parent owes me, do I get their full check from the first round?
Most states say that federal law requires that they get reimbursed first if someone owes both the state and a custodial parent for child support-related costs. But in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring that seized stimulus payments go to the custodial parent before the state.
If the person who owes you also owes someone else for child support, that could affect how much of their stimulus check you get.
If you have questions about coronavirus checks and child support, start with your state child support agency website. Many have FAQs about how they’ll process intercepted checks.
8. If I owe child support but have other children who live with me, should the $500 child credit have been seized as well?
Yes. The child coronavirus tax credits aren’t separate from your coronavirus check. So under the first round, the $500 could be seized with the rest of your payment. But this time, you should receive the $600 credit for dependent children 16 and younger.
9. I don’t owe child support, but my spouse does and we file a joint return. Can I get my $1,200 that was garnished?
Possibly, if you file an injured spouse relief claim using Form 8379. This is typically used when a married couple’s joint return is seized over a debt, even though only one spouse is legally responsible for it.
In that case if the IRS accepts your claim, you’d receive your half of the payment. Your spouse’s half will be used to offset their unpaid child support. This will happen automatically; you don’t need to take further action.
10. If my child’s other parent owes me, why haven’t I gotten their first check yet?
The process varies based on your state. Many hold the checks for 30 days for processing. If the non-custodial parent who owes child support is married and filed a joint return, their half of the payment will be distributed to the custodial parent, but the IRS requires a 180-day waiting period before the other half can be distributed. That’s meant to give the person’s spouse time to file an injured spouse claim.
So let’s say the non-custodial parent is married filing a joint return, and their coronavirus check is for $2,400. You could receive up to $1,200 at first. If the non-custodial parent’s spouse doesn’t receive injured spouse relief, you could receive the remaining $1,200 after 180 days.
If you still haven’t gotten your child’s other parent’s check, the best place to start is by asking your state child support enforcement agency about the status.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column.