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

Updated 4/6/2021

By Christine Tran, 2020 Get It Back Campaign Intern

You can use the new IRS Non-filer portal to claim any stimulus checks you haven’t gotten. You can also sign up for advance Child Tax Credit Payments (monthly payments up to $300 per child for parents and caregivers). 

By law, the first stimulus check can be reduced if someone owes 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 do not receive their stimulus payment because the entire stimulus check goes 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 cannot be reduced to pay your or your spouse’s past due child support. Your second and third stimulus checks will not be offset for any Federal or state debts. However, only your second stimulus check is protected from private debtors and creditors.

If you are claiming the first or second stimulus checks as part of your 2020 tax refund (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 (see IRS FAQs Q E2 and Q E3). In other words, if you receive your first and second stimulus checks as part of your tax refund instead of direct checks, it may be reduced.

Want to check on the status of your payment? Use the IRS Get My Payment tool.

Need help filing your taxes? Visit Code for America’s virtual Get Your Refund service or contact your local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide site to get free tax help from an IRS-certified volunteer. The deadline to file your taxes this year is May 17, 2021.

NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many sites are closed for in-person services. Some may offer drop-off or virtual tax services to continue assisting people with safe tax preparation. Call your VITA or Tax-Aide site to see what services they provide.

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