Covid-19 has ravaged nations worldwide. Nearly three million people have died, and over 100 million have gotten ill due to the coronavirus. In the United States alone, more than half a million people have passed away, and thirty million have contracted the virus.
Along with the human tragedy has come economic devastation, causing millions to lose their jobs and receive significant pay cuts. To help residents deal with this, the federal government has issued several rounds of stimulus checks to assist people through the financial crisis.
Despite the global health and economic disaster, life goes on. Married couples get divorced, and child support and spousal support agreements continue to be hammered out. One question often raised by these spouses and ex-spouses is, who gets the stimulus check?
It can be a difficult question. There have been several rounds of stimulus payments, and they all come with their own rules. Added to that, the initial rounds of stimulus payments were passed in a rushed, emergency fashion by a federal government desperate to get money to those economically devastated by Covid-19. So, a lot of the time, the legislation didn’t address all the scenarios facing those who are divorced, or who are divorcing, or pay or receive alimony, or pay or receive child support. Simply put, Congress has not answered the question, who gets the stimulus check when a married couple divorces.
However, some general guidance is available.
Who Gets the Stimulus Check?
Those making a certain amount of money or less qualify for a full stimulus check. This amount of money is called the threshold income. Qualified dependents also received the money. The threshold incomes and exact types of dependents who qualify depend on the round of stimulus payments.
The IRS uses a qualifying person’s contact information to determine where to electronically transfer or mail the stimulus funds.
How Does Divorce Effect My Stimulus Check?
If you haven’t divorced yet, then the stimulus check is marital property if you filed a joint tax return. In the event of a divorce, it would likely be equitably distributed like any other marital property.
Who Gets the Stimulus Check in Divorce?
If the divorce is finalized, then each ex-spouse may or may not get a stimulus check based on their threshold income. If both ex-spouses qualify, then they should both get their funds and keep the money.
Who Gets the Stimulus Check for Children After Divorce?
Again, it depends on whether the divorce has been finalized or not. If married, it goes to the head of household. However, if you filed jointly with your spouse and claimed your children as dependents, it gets complicated. Please consider contacting a family law attorney for help.
If the formerly married couple is divorced, it’s possible both ex-spouses have claimed the child as a dependent. It then again can be a difficult issue, and a family law attorney should be consulted to determine who gets the stimulus check in divorce.
Do I Have to Share My Stimulus Check with My Ex-Spouse?
Generally, not. If you pay alimony, the ex-spouse probably isn’t entitled to it. However, the ex-spouse can always seek to modify the alimony agreement to obtain increased payments due to the alimony-paying party’s receipt of a stimulus check. This requires showing a change of circumstances and how his change impaired their ability to make a decent living.
Factors a court may consider in modifying an alimony agreement include:
- The need of the parties and their ability to pay
- The age and health of the parties
- The standard of living from when the ex-spouses were married
- Parties’ capacity to earn income
- Each party’s financial contribution to the marriage
- The duration of the marriage.
There are several reasons why this is unlikely to happen. First, the spouse who pays the alimony and receives a stimulus check only received a few hundred dollars – a little over a thousand at most. Second, the factors above really relate to the situation of the ex-spouse receiving alimony – not additional money coming in for the one who pays it. And, it’s entirely possible that the ex-spouse receiving alimony got a stimulus payment themself, which would not be favorable considering the factors above. Finally, the cost to modify the agreement could easily be more than the entire amount of money received by the spouse paying alimony.
So, generally, the answer is no. You don’t have to share your stimulus check with your ex-spouse.
We’re Here for You
The stimulus payments came about through rushed legislation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress did not work out all the details about those receiving the payments and who gets the stimulus check. If you’re considering divorce or have divorced and have child support or alimony obligations, it’s difficult to determine who is entitled to the funds and who is not. At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, we’re up to speed on the latest developments in this area of the law and can address your specific situation. By the time you call us, there may be even more applicable guidance to help determine who gets the stimulus check in divorce. Call us today at 908-691-2104 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Morristown.