Will Your Stimulus Check Be Garnished for Child Support Arrearages?
As part of the CARES Act, most Americans will receive a “stimulus check” for $1,200. This money is designed to encourage spending and increase aggregate demand in the economy. Individuals making less than $75,000 as shown on their most recent tax return should receive the full amount, and those with higher incomes could receive a lesser amount. Joint filers can make up to $150,000 and receive the full amount. If a person has children, they will receive $500 for each qualifying child.
Unfortunately, those who owe unpaid child support should not expect to get their check—now or any time soon. As reported by NBC News, those who owe child support will have their checks intercepted to pay off child support arrearages. At a time when many Americans have lost their jobs or are suffering from reduced hours, this could be an unfortunate development.
The Stimulus Check is Income
According to Rule 1910.16-2(a)(8) of the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines, the CARES check is defined as “income,” which means it can be garnished to pay for any child support arrearages. This subsection defines income as “any form of payment due to and collectible by an individual regardless of source.” Depending on how much you owe, you might have the entire check garnished or only part of it.
Even worse, those with unpaid child support who file taxes jointly could have their spouse’s check intercepted as well. This might seem entirely unfair, given the fact that your spouse is not responsible for supporting your children from a different relationship. Nevertheless, we have heard of this happening. According to some media reports, the IRS is trying to rectify this problem—hopefully soon.
How to Deal with Reduced Income
If you are like millions of Americans, your income could have dropped dramatically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have either lost their jobs outright or have had their hours reduced. Others have been temporarily furloughed with only vague assurances that they will be hired back at a future date.
If this describes your situation, you need to get a modification of your child support order. Typically, this is fairly easy to do. However, with the courts closed, it can be harder to get the judge to sign off on a modification that reduces your child support obligation. Until you have an agreement in place, you are legally responsible for making your regular child support payments.
One option is to negotiate a modified support order, but you should meet with an attorney quickly. Realize that unemployment benefits also count as income. Your attorney will need to take them into consideration when determining what is a fair amount to pay given your reduced circumstances.
Contact a Delaware County Child Support Modification Lawyer
Barbara Flum Stein & Associates has helped many mothers and fathers with modifications, including tackling their arrearages. If you need assistance, please contact our Media modifications & enforcement attorneys today. We will swing into action to protect your rights, but we need to hear from you.