Child Support and the Federal Stimulus Payment
As of March 2021, there have been three stimulus payments, called Economic Impact Payments, authorized by the US Congress to help citizens combat the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these payments has different rules when it comes to child support debt.
On this page you can find general information and links to learn more about how child support debt affects each stimulus payment. If you have questions about your child support case, please call your local child support office or go to OCSE MyCase and register or log in to check the status of your case and for secure messaging with your caseworker.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. If I owe child support, will my stimulus payment be intercepted and applied to my child support arrears?
The three phases of stimulus payments each have different rules:
- The CARES Act passed in March 2020 authorized $1,200 payments for adults and $500 payment for dependents under 17 year of age. In general, the full amount of those payments, including the amount for a spouse or child, was intercepted for child support debt. For more information, including how your spouse may receive his or her share of this payment, click here.
- The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in December 2020 authorized payments of $600 for adults and for dependents who were under 17 years old as of 12/31/19. These payments were not subject to intercept for child support debt. But, if you didn’t receive your payment and must file a tax return to receive a Recovery Rebate Credit, your full tax refund, including any stimulus payments, may be offset and paid to child support debt. For more information about the second stimulus payment click here. For information about the Recovery Rebate Credit click here.
- The American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021 authorizes payments of $1400 per individual and for each dependent claimed on a tax return regardless of age. These payments will not be intercepted for child support debt. No information is available at this time regarding how the IRS will treat payments that are claimed as a credit on a future tax return. Click here for more information.
If your federal payments are subject to offset, a notice was sent to you when you first met criteria under federal law and annually thereafter. If Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA) has been received for your child, the total amount of past due support on all of your child support cases must be at least $150. If TEA has not been received for your child, the total amount of past due support on all of your child support cases must be at least $500. Go to the Enforcement page on this website for more information about the federal tax offset program, as well as other enforcement remedies.
2. If I'm married to someone who owes a child support debt, will I get my portion of the federal stimulus payment?
If your CARES Act stimulus payment was intercepted because you filed jointly with your spouse and only your spouse owes a child support debt, click here to go to the IRS website for information about receiving your portion of the CARES Act stimulus payment. See FAQ 1 for an explanation of the different stimulus payments and child support debt.
3. I'm the custodial party. Will I receive the noncustodial parent's federal stimulus payment?
Each phase of the stimulus payments has had different rules. In general, only payments under the CARES Act passed in March 2020 can be used to pay child support debt. See FAQ 1 for an explanation of the different stimulus payments and child support debt.
If you are receiving child support enforcement services from OCSE your case may be eligible to participate in the federal offset program. If you don’t know if you are receiving full services, go to OCSE MyCase and register or log in for more information. The amount of money you might receive will depend on the amount of the federal payment intercepted, the amount owed in your case, whether you received Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA), and whether the noncustodial parent owes child support arrears for other children. If the noncustodial parent owes child support on another case in another state, it is possible that other state could receive the full federal payment.
4. When will I get the noncustodial parent's federal stimulus payment?
In general, only payments under the CARES Act passed in March 2020 can be used to pay child support debt. See FAQ 1 for an explanation of the different stimulus payments and child support debt.
OCSE does not know when a federal payment will be received or available to send to you. Most federal payments are disbursed upon receipt. However, some federal payments can be taken back by the IRS to allow a spouse to claim his or her share and for other reasons. If this happens, you must return the payment. Because of this, federal payments from joint tax returns are typically held for six months to reduce the chance of that happening.
Because of the unprecedented conditions from COVID-19, and the IRS’s recent issue of portions of Economic Impact Payments made under the CARES Act to the unobligated spouses of parents who owed past-due support, child support agencies received permission to hold offsets beyond the normal timeframes, or until June 30, 2021, in some cases.
5. I'm the custodial party and am receiving or have in the past received TEA for my child. Will I receive any money from a federal stimulus payment?
Maybe. Federal law dictates how payments received by a state child support agency under the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program are distributed. In Arkansas, federal tax offsets are applied first to arrears owed to the state (arrears owed for the repayment of TEA) and then to arrears owed to the family. If there are arrears owed to the state, the intercept stimulus payments up to the amount owed to the state will be retained by the state. Any remaining amount from the intercept will be sent to you.
6. I'm the custodial party. There was a case open with OCSE but it's closed because I didn't want OCSE to take action to collect child support. Why did OCSE intercept the noncustodial parent's stimulus payment?
If you received TEA benefits in the past and child support from that time period was still owed when you requested to close your case, the debt remains owed to the state and is called "un-reimbursed cash assistance" or "assigned arrears." You were notified of the amount of un-reimbursed cash assistance when your case closed. In such cases, the debt continues to be collectible through the Federal Tax Offset Program until it has been paid. Any collection received as an IRS Tax Offset will pay what is owed to the state of Arkansas. Once the debt to the state has been paid, any remaining amount will be refunded to the noncustodial parent.