According to the federal government, over 80 million Americans will receive their stimulus checks this week. I have received several calls from current and former clients indicating that they already received their checks. Below are a few answers to some commonly asked questions.
If your divorce is still pending and you receive funds in your account, you should talk with your spouse and try to reach an agreement. If you both agree, then you can simply divide the $2,400 and each of you should receive $1,200. If you don’t agree, you may want to keep the funds in a savings account that your spouse does not have access to and have the court divide the money when the divorce is finalized.
In Georgia, many counties are subject to a mutual restraining order or standing order while the divorce is pending. These orders typically require divorcing parties not to dispose of assets in a unilateral manner or in a manner that is not part of the typical course of business. The stimulus funds are intended for immediate use and needs. If you decide that you need to use your portion of the funds now, most judges probably will not find this to be an act of contempt as long as you don’t utilize your spouse’s portion of the funds. This is uncharted territory, however, and no attorney can ever say with 100% certainty what a judge will or will not do.
The stimulus check provides an additional $500 payment for children under age 17. The parent who claimed the child on his or her taxes in 2019, would receive the check. The funds are being direct deposited based on the bank information used in 2018 and 2019 tax years. If you divorced after you filed your 2019 taxes, the federal government probably does not know this yet. The safest practice is to try to reach an agreement with your former spouse. If there is no agreement, you can seek a court order to divide the funds. The reality is if the only thing you are disagreeing on is $500, most people are not going to go to court for that amount. If your divorce is still pending, it can be addressed as part of the existing divorce case.
You should return this to the ex-spouse. Even if the person is behind on their child support payment or other financial obligations, their portion of the stimulus check was not intended for you. You don’t want to risk having issues with the federal government. If the person is behind on their obligations, the best course of action is to file a suit for contempt.
If possible, transfer the money to the other party via direct deposit. Banks keep meticulous records that can always be tracked. If this is not an option, send a check. I don’t recommend money orders because they get misplaced and it is difficult to retrieve a copy if you need to prove that you sent the money.
If you pay child support through Georgia Child Support services, you should not expect to receive the stimulus funds. However, if you are behind on child support and you do not have an open case with Georgia Child Support Services, you may still receive the funds.
Contact Sharon Jackson at (678) 909-4100 if you would like to schedule a phone or video meeting with a family law attorney in the metro Atlanta area. If you are an existing client, please feel free to text me or call me on my cell phone.
Attorney Sharon Jackson LLC
175 Langley Drive, Suite A1
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
Phone: (678) 909-4100
Fax: (678) 281-0482