Can the Government Take My Stimulus Check for Back Child Support?

Can the Government Take My Stimulus Check for Back Child Support?A third round of stimulus checks went out to the American people in early March. Some have already seen the funds direct deposited into their accounts. Others have not received their payments yet, and are wondering why. Those who owe debts like child support or student loans may be worried that their stimulus payment will be garnished.

Following are some frequently asked questions and answers about stimulus check number three.

How is this stimulus check different from the first two payments?

The third stimulus payment is larger than the second, with the intention to “round up” the second payment to an even $2,000. The base amount for the third payment is $1,400, with families receiving an additional $1,400 per eligible dependent. Note that for this third round, “dependent” can include any family members living in the household, not just young children. These payments also target households earning less money, with payments phasing out as an individual’s or head of household’s annual gross adjusted income increases.

Can my stimulus check be taken for back child support?

The first stimulus check had provisions for garnishment for back child support. The second payment protected people from garnishment completely. With the third payment, your funds cannot be taken or garnished for back child support. However, it is important to note that they can be seized to pay private debtors.

When is the government allowed to garnish my stimulus payment?

The IRS is not permitted to take your stimulus money for things like unpaid student loans or back child support. However, CNET explains that if “you are filing for any missing stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit on your tax return this year, the IRS can potentially garnish that money to pay for any back taxes you owe.”

They also report that some banks, at their own discretion, are using customers’ direct deposit stimulus funds to pay off overdraft fees. This is resulting in draining customer accounts before consumers have a chance to access their money. Further, although only the state and government have the right to seize a refund to pay a debt, CNET states that private creditors can access any account with a court order.

Why can private creditors access my account?

Congress passed the third stimulus bill using a method called “budget reconciliation.” This process is different than the way the first two were made law, and allows only certain types of legislation to pass. As a result, private debt collectors have a right to garnish stimulus money in your account, if they have the proper court order or warrant.

If this feels unfair, you are not alone in your opinion. Consumer and banker advocacy groups penned an open letter to Congress, reading in part, “Depository institutions are obligated to comply with court orders, and unless Congress immediately passes the attached language in a standalone bill, they will be forced to pay some creditors who attempt to garnish and freeze bank accounts.”

They continued, “We believe it is imperative that Congress ensure that these next stimulus payments are treated as ‘benefits’ subject to the federal exemption from garnishment. Otherwise, the families that most need this money—those struggling with debt and whose entire bank accounts may be frozen by garnishment orders—will be not be able to access their funds.”

The family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. are here to help you. If you need assistance seeking child support, or need legal advice if you are in arrears, our experienced team is ready to work with you today. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys by calling 443-917-3347 or reaching out to us through our contact form today. We maintain offices in Bethesda, Fulton, Columbia, and Rockville.