Legal Information

Frequently Asked Questions Involving Courts and COVID-19

July 13, 2021

What can I do if I am married and my spouse takes my stimulus check?

Generally, most of the funds that come into a marriage are considered joint money. This means that both spouses are equally allowed to access as much of the joint funds as they want. One person’s money is also the other person’s money, and vice versa. When one spouse takes joint funds, it is not usually considered stealing because you cannot steal from yourself. In some places, spouses cannot sue one another, other than for divorce, for this same reason. However, some states may allow spouses to sue one another. You will have to check with the court clerk or a lawyer in your area to see if filing a small claims action is an option for you.

If small claims court is not possible, then one other option is to file for divorce and ask the divorce judge to order that the stimulus payment be returned to you. Divorce can be complicated and so you will want to consult with a lawyer before deciding on whether or not to file for divorce. We have more information in our Divorce section.

You might also be able to claim your stimulus payment for yourself as a married individual when you file your 2020 tax return in 2021, if you file as married filing separately. Make sure to indicate to the IRS that you did not receive your stimulus payment(s). The IRS will likely challenge this if their records show payments were already issued under your SSN, so you will need to argue, and prove if possible, that you did not receive the stimulus payments. The IRS will likely provide you with a limited timeframe of 60 days to respond to their denial of the credit. You should respond to the IRS within that timeframe, and you may want to work with a tax professional for help with how to respond to the IRS by certified mail. The letter could explain the situation in detail and demand your stimulus payment if, for example, the IRS wrongfully put into an account to which you have no access. There is a Handout written by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Community Tax Law Project that explains this process in more detail.

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