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Stimulus checks depend on several factors

Dear Lawyer Mark:  Like everyone else, I am still waiting for my money from the government.

My problem is, I don’t know whether I get it or my ex does.

We always filed a joint return. We got divorced at the end of last year and got shared parenting of our two kids.

Who is supposed to get the money for them, and will the government separate our checks?

I lost my job because of all this and really need the money. — Poor in Pedro

Dear Poor: There are several factors that will determine which of you is entitled to receive the funds, which may be different than who actually receives the funds from the U.S. Treasury.

As you are obviously aware, the CARES Act provides stimulus payments of $1,200 per person to those individuals (and therefore $2,400 to couples) making less than a certain amount per year, plus an additional $500 per child under the age of 17 in the household.

The monies will be automatically deposited into the accounts you used for a refund on your last tax return, or if not possible, then a check will be mailed to the address on file for the last tax return.

This means that if you and your ex have not filed your 2019 tax returns, and had a refund last year that was automatically deposited into a bank account, all the monies to which your family is entitled will be deposited into that account if it is still open, even if only you or your ex now own that account.

If the account is closed, then a check payable to both of you will be mailed to the address on the 2018 return.

If you have filed your 2019 returns, then whoever claimed the children in 2019 will have the monies for the children deposited with their refund (or have a check mailed to them).

That’s where the money goes, but that doesn’t mean that is who is entitled to it.

The stimulus monies are actually a prepayment of an income tax rebate for taxable year 2020. In short, each adult individual is entitled to his or her own personal $1,200 amount, and unless otherwise addressed by the court, the $500 per child rebate should actually go to the parent claiming the child for tax year 2020.

Many divorced parents alternate tax years claiming their dependent children and this provision will affect them.

Most family law attorneys are advising clients in this situation to do what they should be doing to begin with: Split the adult monies and then determine what is in the best interests of your children and try to come to an agreement.

In the event an agreement cannot be reached, motions can be filed to have a court make a determination, but the filing fees and attorney fees could quickly surpass the amount of the rebate you are arguing over.

Thought for the Week: “The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.” – George Carlin

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.