I owe back child support for a son from my first marriage, and so I have not received a stimulus check. Does President Trump not realize I now have another family to take care of? They need me now. If I can’t feed my family, I will do what I can to make that happen. If that means taking food from stores without paying, I will. This system is not equitable.
The CARES Act has allocated money to get people through this period of economic uncertainty, and withholding checks now does not take into account the unprecedented circumstances in which millions of hard-working families are living. Millions of people likely owe back taxes and are overdue on their student loans, yet they are forgiven and receive $1,200 stimulus checks.
I am not the only person in this position. What do you believe is fair?
J.M. in Texas
There are a few non sequiturs in your letter. Some people have complained of being punished for doing the right thing. You are, by your own account, being penalized for doing the wrong thing. More than 30 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks due to the economic effects of the nationwide lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. I agree: It’s not fair on children who have to live with the stress of seeing their parents come under financial strain.
I understand that you need to support your family. Your family should not have to suffer during this difficult time. Let me rephrase that. Your families should not have to suffer. You have two families to support, after all, not one. You don’t get to pick and choose what children deserve your help at a time when millions of families are struggling, at least not in the eyes of the law. Thus, the federal government has intervened to make sure you fulfill your legal and your moral obligations.
If you had supported your first child, the system would support you now. Why did you not pay your child support? Did you lose your job and do everything in your power to get another one to support both of your families? Did your business go under because of the pandemic? Of course, there are often extenuating circumstances where parents are simply unable to pay and, perhaps, don’t have an emergency fund for all eventualities. But if your instinct now is to steal, it gives me pause.
“ Of course, there are often extenuating circumstances. But you have not given me a valid reason, or any reason for that matter, why you have not paid child support. ”
Most of these EICs are being split 50/50 between two households. That seems fair. “If you are married filing jointly, and you filed an injured spouse claim with your 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return), half of the total payment will be sent to each spouse and your spouse’s payment will be offset only for past-due child support,” according to the Internal Revenue Service. “There is no need to file another injured spouse claim for the payment.”
Those parents listed on the Treasury Offset list for unpaid child support are liable, like you, to have their economic impact payment reduced or withheld. “Federal law requires child-support agencies to have procedures to collect past due child support from federal tax refunds,” according to Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas. “In the federal stimulus bill, the CARES Act, Congress did not exempt the stimulus rebate payments from federal offsets for child-support arrears.”
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In some cases the government has mistakenly withheld stimulus money from injured parties in child-support cases. The IRS said it’s working with the Bureau of Fiscal Service, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Child Support Enforcement to resolve this as soon as possible. Those parents who are owed child support and have not received their money may, indeed, feel rightly justified in holding their former spouses and the government responsible.
You have not given me any valid reason, or any reason for that matter, why you have not paid child support. Instead, you lay the blame at the feet of the government. While no government is perfect, directing your anger at everyone else seems too simple a conclusion. In almost every situation, we all have to take some share — however large or small — of the responsibility. There’s an old saying: “When you take ‘bla, bla, bla’ out of ‘blame,’ you are left with ‘me.’
The time has come to take accountability for your own actions, my friend.
Read readers’ responses to this letter: ‘Not everyone that owes back child support is a deadbeat.’ Is it fair for President Trump to garnish stimulus checks of fathers who are behind on payments?
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here
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