My spouse and I are separated and he/she kept our stimulus check. How can I get the money?
Stimulus money comes in the form of one check, deposited into the account that the IRS has on file. The money is earmarked for each family member. For example, if you get a $4,200 check for a family of three, it is broken down as $1,400 each for the husband, wife and child. If the parties are separated and only one party has access to the account where the check was deposited, that spouse should give the other spouse $1,400, plus all or half of the child’s portion.
People often ask what to do with the child’s $1,400. If the child lives primarily with one person, that parent should receive the child’s entire stimulus. If the child spends substantial time with both parents, an argument can be made that the parents should equally split it.
If you are separated from your spouse and they received the stimulus check, but will not give you your fair share upon request, you must hire a family law attorney and tell your lawyer about the money from the stimulus that is owed to you. Your attorney will request the money and/or include it in the divorce proceedings or your marital settlement agreement.
If you already have an attorney and/or already filed for divorce, you or your attorney may be able to obtain the funds for you as soon as possible by simply asking your spouse or your spouse’s attorney.
Attorneys can often resolve these issues without involving the Court, but the Court will intervene if necessary. If all else fails, your attorney will include it the money owed to you in your marital settlement agreement, which is basically a break-down of the money that will be divided and/or paid out at a later date.
An important side-note is to close joint bank account(s) as soon as your divorce is final. By opening your own individual accounts, you are protected from your ex-spouse keeping the entire stimulus check when it is deposited into the old joint account that is now solely in their name.
This is also the case for tax returns. The IRS deposits stimulus money and tax returns into the last account on file. If this happens after a divorce is final, and it is not mentioned in your marital settlement agreement, it could be a real problem and you must contact an attorney immediately.