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How do stimulus checks work for divorced parents?

President Donald Trump recently signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) into law. The law results in a stimulus check to families throughout the country. Each qualifying individual is slotted to receive $1,200 and those with children will recieve an additional $500 per child.   

How does the government decide who gets stimulus checks?

In general, individuals who earn over $99,000 and those who file jointly who earn over $198,000 annually do not qualify for a stimulus check. The government will review previous tax filings to determine a taxpayer's average income and make this determination.

The use of past tax returns could complicate matters for recently divorced couples. It is possible the government would review tax filings from when the couple was filing as a married couple. In these cases, one party may receive the full stimulus amount. It is likely the courts would expect this individual to forward half the amount to their ex.

What about the additional $500 per kid?

A divorce settlement agreement should include a discussion on taxes. This provision will likely discuss which parent takes the tax exemption for the children. That parent will likely receive the additional $500 per kid provided by the stimulus package.

It is also important to note that lawmakers wrote the bill to reduce the risk of creditors seizing the checks from the intended recipient -- with one key exception: child support. A parent who is waiting for late child support payments could claim the other parent's stimulus check.

What if parents have custody disputes?

We are navigating uncertain times. Parents may find themselves frustrated with another parent's failure to abide by a custody order or in need of revising an existing order to better reflect current circumstances. In these cases, it is wise to seek legal counsel to better ensure your interests are protected.

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