The Moneyist: ‘I owe child support from my first marriage and did not receive a stimulus check. Does Trump not realize I have another family to take care of?’

I owe back child support for a son from my first marriage, and so I have not received a stimulus check. Does President Trump not realize I now have another family to take care of? They need me now. If I can’t feed my family, I will do what I can to make that happen. If that means taking food from stores without paying, I will. This system is not equitable.

The CARES Act has allocated money to get people through this period of economic uncertainty, and withholding checks now does not take into account the unprecedented circumstances in which millions of hard-working families are living. Millions of people likely owe back taxes and are overdue on their student loans, yet they are forgiven and receive $1,200 stimulus checks.

I am not the only person in this position. What do you believe is fair?

J.M. in Texas

Dear J.M.,

There are a few non sequiturs in your letter. Some people have complained of being punished for doing the right thing. You appear to have put a new twist on this.

You are, by your own account, being penalized for doing the wrong thing. More than 30 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks due to the economic effects of the nationwide lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. I agree: It’s not fair on children who have to live with the stress of seeing their parents come under increasing financial strain, especially when it’s due to other’s people’s ill-judged decisions.

I understand that you need to support your family. Your family should not have to suffer during this difficult time. Let me rephrase that. Your families should not have to suffer. You have two families to support, after all, not one. You don’t get to pick and choose what children deserve your help at a time when millions of families are struggling, at least not in the eyes of the law. Thus, the federal government has intervened to make sure you fulfill your legal and your moral obligations.

Also see: I received my ex-husband’s $1,200 stimulus check because we filed joint taxes in 2018. Should I give him the money or return it to the IRS?

Put bluntly: If you had supported your first child, the system would support you now. “If you are married filing jointly, and you filed an injured spouse claim with your 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return), half of the total payment will be sent to each spouse and your spouse’s payment will be offset only for past-due child support,” according to the Internal Revenue Service. “There is no need to file another injured spouse claim for the payment.”

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Those parents listed on the Treasury Offset list for unpaid child support are liable, like you, to have their economic impact payment reduced or withheld. “Federal law requires child-support agencies to have procedures to collect past due child support from federal tax refunds,” according to Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas. “In the federal stimulus bill, the CARES Act, Congress did not exempt the stimulus rebate payments from federal offsets for child-support arrears.”

In some cases the government has mistakenly withheld stimulus money from injured parties in child-support cases. The IRS said it’s working with the Bureau of Fiscal Service, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Child Support Enforcement to resolve this as soon as possible. Those parents who are owed child support and have not received their money may, indeed, feel rightly justified in holding their former spouses and the government responsible.

You have not given me any valid reason, or any reason for that matter, why you have not paid child support. Instead, you lay the blame at the feet of the government. While no government is perfect, this seems too simple a conclusion. In almost every situation, we all have to take some share — however large or small — of the responsibility. There’s an old saying: “When you take ‘bla, bla, bla’ out of ‘blame,’ you are left with ‘me.’ The time has come to take accountability for your own actions.

Dispatches from a pandemic:Letter from New York: ‘New Yorkers wear colorful homemade masks, while nurses wear garbage bags’

Coronavirus update: As of Tuesday evening, nearly 9.6 million people had been tested in the U.S. for SARS-CoV-2, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. There were 1,369,376 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 82,356 deaths, of which 27,284 were in New York state, which remains the epicenter of the pandemic. Worldwide, there were 4,261,747 confirmed cases and 291,942 deaths, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The Moneyist: My son is staying with me, yet my financially irresponsible ex-husband received his $500 stimulus check. Is my ex right to keep it?

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

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