What do I do if I didn’t get my first stimulus check because my spouse owed child support?

Updated 12/21/2023

By Christine Tran, 2020 Get It Back Campaign Intern

The IRS has issued all first, second, and third stimulus checks for COVID relief. Learn more about the first stimulus check, the second stimulus check, and the third stimulus check.

It’s not too late to claim any missed stimulus checks. You will need to file a 2020 tax return to get the first and second stimulus checks and a 2021 tax return to get the third stimulus check.You must file a 2020 tax return by May 17, 2024.

To claim your first, second, or third stimulus checks, wait until the 2024 tax season begins to get help filing your 2020 or 2021 tax return. You can also claim missed stimulus checks through GetYourRefund.org which opens on January 31, 2024.

By law, if you are claiming the first stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Credit, it can be reduced if you owe child support. However, as the married spouse of someone who owes child support, you will still get your portion of the stimulus check. Unfortunately, in some cases, people did not receive their stimulus payment because the entire stimulus went to their spouse’s child support debt.

If you did not receive your stimulus check because it was used to pay your spouse’s past-due child support, the IRS should have already taken action to recover your portion of the first stimulus check. The last of these payments were direct deposited on November 25, 2020 or mailed on November 27, 2020. If you did not receive your portion of the first stimulus check, you can file a 2020 federal tax return to claim your check as the Recovery Rebate Credit.

By law, your second and third stimulus checks could not be reduced to pay your or your spouse’s past due child support if you received them automatically. Additionally, your second and third stimulus checks could not be offset for any Federal or state debts, and your second stimulus check was protected from private debtors and creditors.

If you are claiming the first or second stimulus checks as part of your 2020 tax refund or your third stimulus check as part of your 2021 tax refund (both known as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit), the stimulus checks are no longer protected from past-due child support payments, creditor and debt collectors, and other federal or state debt that you owe debt (see the IRS FAQs for the 2020 Recovery Rebate and the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit). In other words, if you receive your stimulus checks as part of your tax refund instead of direct checks, they may be reduced.

Want to check on the status of your payment? Information about the first, second, and third stimulus checks is no longer available on the IRS Get My Payment tool. To check the amount of issued stimulus checks, you can refer to IRS Notice 1444 (first stimulus check), Notice 1444-B (second stimulus check), and Notice 1444-C (third stimulus check) that were mailed to you to see the amounts of these payments or check your bank statements if your checks were direct deposited.

You can also view the amounts by creating an IRS Online account at  IRS.gov/account. To create an account, you will need:

  1. Basic information: Full legal name, email, and Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
  2. Photo identification:Driver’s license, State ID, Passport, or Passport Card. If you don’t have one of these, you may still be able to create an account using a combination of documents described here.
  3. A computer OR cell phone with a front-facing camera and access to the internet:  You can use either a computer or a cell phone to create an account.

Once you’ve created your account, you can check if you received the Recovery Rebate Credit:

  1. Log into your IRS account with your username and password.
  2. Click “Tax Records” at the top of the menu, then click “Transcript.”
  3. Select the reason you need the transcript. (This is required. If you aren’t sure which applies to you, you can select “Other.”)
  4. Look for the box that says, “Return Transcript” and select the year you need, 2020 or 2021.
  5. Open the search function in your browser and type “recovery rebate.”
  6. If you see an amount listed on this section of your transcript, that means you received the credit.

Need help filing your taxes? Visit Code for America’s virtual Get Your Refund service (opens on January 31, 2023 or contact your local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide site when the 2023 tax season begins to get free tax help from an IRS-certified volunteer. Be sure to ask if they file prior year returns.

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