Stimulus and Child Support
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
I have been getting a lot of questions about the stimulus check and how it is being handled for families with a child support arrearage. You have seen on the news reports that a person will not get their stimulus check if they have a past due balance for child support. That is not exactly true. A person will in fact get their stimulus check, it is simply that it may not be delivered directly to them. I spoke with an attorney with the child support division and learned that it appears they are going to handle stimulus checks like they do tax intercepts.
What does all that mean? The stimulus check instead of going to the person who is behind in their support, it will go to the child support office handling their child support case. Once the check arrives at the child support office, a notice will be sent out to that parent informing them that their check has been intercepted and is being held by the child support division. They will have a certain amount of time (I believe for tax refund intercepts it is six months) to object to the check being applied to the amounts they owe for child support. It also allows for an “innocent spouse” (the spouse of the parent who owes support) to claim their portion back.
As a recipient of child support, you may see the amounts pending on your account. However, you will not have access to those funds until the required time has lapsed, and child support office is permitted to release the funds to you. This is great news for those who have a child support arrearage order from the Court.
Here is where things get tricky. If you are one of those parents that never wanted to cause waves, or just did not want to spend money to pay an attorney to go after back due child support, you may have lost out on an opportunity to get paid. While the other parent may owe you back child support, if the Court and/or the child support office have no record that the other parent has not been paying you all the owed child support, they cannot intercept the stimulus check.
I tell parents all the time, even if you never pursue contempt or have that non-compliant parent put in jail for non-support, at least get it on the record that there is an arrearage owed.
You never know when that other parent is going to get a tax refund that the child support office can intercept.
Also know that the Child Support Office may overlook your arrearage. I have had one client notify me that the parent paying support received their stimulus check even though they owed thousands of dollars in support. Make sure that the Child Support Office has you set up for tax intercept for any arrearages owed. They deal with a huge volume of cases and it is easy to overlook a case. Tax Intercept can only be issued by the Child Support Office.
It pays to talk with an attorney about your options. The Child Support Office can help you for free. It typically takes a lot longer to get a court order in place through the Child Support Office simply because of the sheer volume of cases they are having to handle. A private attorney can file a motion and get the matter set for a hearing pretty quickly. Also, the hearing is rarely more than 30 minutes. If there is a child support order in place, the paying party either has proof or doesn’t have proof that he made the child support payments.
So, if you owe child support don't plan on getting a stimulus check. And if child support is owed to you, be watching your account for its availability. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about this topic or any issue related to child support.