Stimulus checks won't be in mail for those behind on child support

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Marie E. Matyjaszek

First and foremost, I hope that everyone reading this column is healthy and safe during this surreal situation we are all experiencing. I have a new appreciation for my amazing daycare providers and educators that provide my children with direction and guidance throughout the year. My latest attempt at supporting a P.E. curriculum includes purchasing a bouncy house for my kids to “exercise” in.

The economic repercussions that have gone hand in hand with the COVID-19 pandemic are astounding, and Congress recently approved a $2.2 trillion relief package. Part of that package is a cash stimulus, which provides Americans with up to $1,200 per adult, and $500 per qualifying child in the household. How much income a household earned in 2019 or 2018 is taken into consideration in determining the actual dollar amount you might receive.

Another potential consideration is whether or not you owe past due child support that has been reported to the Treasury Department.

Similar to how tax returns can be garnished for those with child support arrearages, the stimulus checks also may be reduced or completely eliminated for those who have failed to pay child support. March and April are big months at the Friend of the Court, with individuals asking where their tax refund money has gone, or when they can expect to receive a portion of their ex’s refund. Pursuant to the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, when states report child support arrearages to the Treasury Department, it will intercept the tax refunds that people receive and reroute those funds to the recipient of child support. That intercept now includes the COVID-19 stimulus checks, which are considered federal payments.

According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the majority of Americans should see their funds by April 17, which is just around the corner. With many states having issued stay-home orders, courthouses are closed, or functioning in a very limited capacity, and access to relief through the courts is undoubtedly diminished. By time people can file pleadings to address any issues with intercepts of their stimulus checks, the money may be long gone.

The legal system will continue to be hard hit by this illness when courts fully reopen, with a flood of filings, both delayed and emergent. In the meantime, as long as you have the ability, keep paying your child support and stay safe.

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Marie Matyjaszek is an attorney referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; the views expressed in this column, however, are her own. Her blog site is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached by e-mailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.




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