Child support rules in a second stimulus check undergo a major change – CNET

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The rules for a second stimulus check have changed enough to recast who is qualified to get more money.


Angela Lang/CNET

Thanks to an increasingly tense and complicated turn of events between President Donald Trump and Congress, a second stimulus check isn’t official yet. But when and if it is, this current iteration of the rules set out in a $900 billion stimulus bill has changed enough from the first stimulus check to reset the expectations for parents in a child support situation, including who could be disqualified from a second stimulus check of any amount.

The second stimulus check requirements retain the same definition of a child dependent, that is, 16 years old or under, but authorizes payments of $600 per child as part of the household’s total. Remember, only qualified adults receive their own stimulus check. But if you owe or are owed child support, how does that affect your potential direct payment? And could two separated or divorced parents both claim the $600 benefit, just like with the first check?

Here’s everything you should know about second stimulus checks and child support, like how much money you could get for your child dependent on either side of that financial equation. Try out our second stimulus check calculator for an estimate of your total, and here’s what you need to know about waves of payment groups. This story is updated often.

There’s a huge second stimulus check change to overdue child support

Unlike the CARES Act, which made it legal for states to garnish the first stimulus check for more than $150 in arrears, up to the entire contents of the payment, this second stimulus check — if it becomes law — would let the parent who owes child support keep the entire contents. In fact, it prohibits seizing stimulus checks for any kind of debt, including from private creditors and banks.

It also means that if you’re owed child support, you will not receive money taken from your child’s other parent in the next direct payment. 


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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know

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Why else it’s significant

When the first stimulus checks were garnished to pay past-due child support, sometimes clerical errors also took stimulus money allocated to a (new) spouse who was not the child’s other parent. Stopping all seizures of stimulus check money means that these individuals would not have to reclaim their full second stimulus check funds with the IRS.

Could both parents get a $600 check per child with joint custody?

There was a loophole in the first stimulus check that benefited both parents with the $600 per child if they filed their taxes in a certain way. The second stimulus check, if it passes as is, would draw from your 2019 tax filing. It isn’t entirely clear if the same rules would apply, but here’s how it played out with the first check. 

Most of the time — but not always — the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent, who likely claims the child on their taxes. Sometimes, however, child support is owed even when parents share custody (when one parent earns significantly more than the other, for example). In many of those cases — but, again, not all — parents alternate claiming the child on their taxes (one in odd years, the other in even years, for example).

In situations like these, it’s possible that stimulus payments for dependents could be sent to one parent but not both parents. If that happens, the parent who did not receive the money can claim it on their 2020 tax return and receive it along with any refund due in 2021, according to Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “Double dipping,” in this instance, isn’t a glitch — both parents could technically qualify for the $600 payment (for a total payout from the US Treasury of $1,200 per child).

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If your nonparent spouse had money deducted from their first stimulus check for child support that you owe, the IRS will issue another check to make up the difference.


Sarah Tew/CNET

There’s a way to get back child support that was wrongly garnished

Although states had the right to garnish CARES Act stimulus check money  (the first payment) from parents who owed back child support, the IRS, which issued the checks, says it didn’t mean to allow states to also deduct from a current, nonparent spouse’s stimulus check as well.

If you are now married to someone who is not the child’s parent, and past-due child support was deducted from funds intended for your current spouse, the IRS directed taxpayers in August to fill out a Form 8379 (PDF) in order to receive a replacement check. However, since then, the agency says it is sifting through to find such errors and will be issuing replacement checks, although it did not provide a timeline for doing so. It appears the IRS is ironing out this particular wrinkle, so hopefully it won’t be a problem next time.

You can also try to claim black what was owed in Tax Season 2021 using the Recovery Rebate Credit designed by the IRS specifically for stimulus checks.

Stay up to date on the latest on stimulus bill negotiations here, find out how much you might qualify for with our payment calculator here and see when you might get a second stimulus check.

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