Some couples may have filed their taxes jointly last year but have since divorced.
It can result in confusion about how to get your tax refund or stimulus check this year.
What should happen with these funds?
The first thing you should do is check a final, signed copy of your General Judgment (Oregon) or your Final Divorce Order (Washington). Most final documents are unlikely to address stimulus checks specifically, since they are not common payments. If there is some language in the paperwork that states what will happen if your taxes are audited later, that is most likely going to hold the answer to how a court will look at the stimulus check. For example, if your final document says something to the effect of “any outstanding tax liabilities or tax return funds will be shared equally”, it is most likely that a court would apply the same logic to stimulus checks since they are essentially additional refunds.
What if your documents do not address tax returns?
It is possible that a court would still award half of the stimulus to each party, since it is essentially an undiscovered asset.
How do I get the funds?
Many of the stimulus checks and often tax returns are directly deposited into a bank account that was once a joint account, but now only belongs to one of the parties. The simplest thing is to talk to ask your ex-spouse directly about whether they received their portion of the refund or stimulus check, and, if so, ask them to provide you with half, or whatever amount makes sense for your circumstances. If your ex-spouse refuses, you have the option to enforce any part of the divorce judgment/final order in small claims court. Since all you would be trying to prove is that you should have received a stimulus/refund that the other person kept in full, it should be a relatively straightforward case for small claims court.
Did we even qualify?
For many people, the first issue is finding out if the stimulus was actually distributed to your ex-spouse. Check the IRS website and see if you can get any information. You can check whether you qualified based on the IRS tax code rules by comparing your income statements on the tax return with the IRS rules. Just make sure that you are looking at the actual IRS website (www.irs.gov).
*** All of the above statements are general information, and should not be interpreted as legal advice. You should speak with an attorney to get advice specific to your situation.