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The Moneyist: I didn’t get my stimulus check because I owe back child support. It’s not fair. My stepchildren rely on me — what can I do?

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Dear Moneyist,

Stimulus checks should not be taken for back child support.

Not all people who don’t pay, or are behind on child support are dead-beat parents. Sometimes shit happens in life and we are forced to miss payment’s due to various reasons: losing your job, family emergencies, health reasons etc. There are legitimate reasons why some parents can’t pay.

Everyone’s situation is different. I was unemployed for a year. Up until that happened, I paid on time every month for 6 years. As soon as I got back to work, it started paying again. So I got back on track and continued to make payments for 3 years consecutively, and I was on time every month.

I switched jobs and missed several months. Once I got back on track, the payments started. I’m currently making payments and I’m current for the last year. I went to court to address the back support, we agreed to pay extra $50 a month until the $16,000 in back support is paid.

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Out of 11 years of paying child support, I’ve missed 1.5 years. So I feel like it is unfair for the government to take my stimulus check. My girlfriend of 7 years is a dialysis patient and on disability, she has two kids from a previous marriage. They call me dad and I take care of them.

She’s not working because of health reasons, so I’m the one supporting us. Luckily, I’m still working and my job is considered ”essential.” I was really counting on that to help us out. I’m doing the right thing. I am trying to get back into the black. After all, something is better then nothing.

What’s your take on this situation? I know there must be a lot of people who are really upset like me that were really counting on the $1,200 stimulus payment to provide for their families. I sure hope that I will receive the next stimulus check, if one gets approved.

Fed Up and Sick of the Bureaucracy

Dear Fed Up and Sick,

Life isn’t fair. Once we accept that salient fact, the rest should — in theory — be a doddle. The pandemic isn’t fair. Millions of hard-working people losing their jobs because of a pandemic that started thousands of miles away, in a food market in Wuhan, China is not fair.

Your former wife and children not receiving their child support is not fair. You receiving no stimulus check because you lost your job, let’s assume, is not fair. Your stepchildren doing without is not fair. And the 583,450 people who died alone from COVID-19? That too is not fair. None of this is fair.

So how does one assess your situation? You shoulder a lot of responsibility. Your girlfriend is on dialysis, and you have been on top of your child support when you were working full time. I don’t know whether you could have set money aside every week. I assume you did the best you could.

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To answer your question, I only need to shift the perspective. Take a moment to sit in your former wife’s chair at her kitchen table and/or step into your children’s shoes. I imagine they don’t think it’s fair that your child support payments never arrived when they were supposed to.

The pandemic presents an opportunity for you to take responsibility for the unpaid child support, and to help your biological children. They too probably had to do without lots of things while you were out of work. This $1,200 is an obvious way for you to make some progress in paying off this debt.

Your biological children are your No. 1 financial priority as a father. At least, they should be. Whether or not you agree, the law ensures you must pay them first. If you truly believe this situation isn’t fair on you, it makes me wonder: Who is the adult in this situation — and who is the child?

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

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