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‘He stopped paying all the bills’: My cheating husband moved in with his girlfriend and stole my stimulus check — twice

Dear Moneyist,

My husband cheated on me, moved out of our home, and moved in with his girlfriend in October 2019. He stopped paying all the bills and doesn’t pay child support, or much of anything. He filed for divorce, but because we are unable to finish paying the lawyers, our divorce is on pause.

The Internal Revenue Service has deposited all the stimulus money into his account, and he will not share it with me. I finally started working this past October, and this most current stimulus check went to him again! Why did I not receive my own?

We have one minor child, and he took her share as well.

Still Married,

Dear Married,

You may not have received a check because you did not file a tax return.

It’s not 100% clear from your letter whether you have a formal separation agreement. The IRS has clear instructions on reporting people who falsely claim dependents. There are exceptions to the rules, but a child must live with the qualifying parent for more than half of the calendar year.

Your estranged husband should tread carefully, as you have not lived together for over a year. “When you knowingly claim a false dependent on your taxes, you risk sanctions and a potential audit from the IRS,” according to CommunityTax.com.

Given the unclear legal status of your marriage, you could use the IRS policy as leverage when speaking to your husband. You can also follow the IRS instructions on reporting false claims regarding dependents, if that is what has happened here.

The government is using the IRS database as a way to determine people’s eligibility for the stimulus payments. They are recoverable rebate credits on your 2020 return. The IRS is using 2019 tax returns to gauge people’s incomes; 2018 tax returns are used as a Plan B.

This is not the first letter of this kind I have received during the pandemic about spouses pilfering stimulus payments. And it won’t be the last. Yours may be less clear cut than some of the other cases, but I would not give up hope on receiving your due in 2021 just yet. 

The Moneyist:I filed for bankruptcy after rehabbing my husband’s home. Now he wants an open marriage and says I own nothing. I feel trapped and bamboozled

Previous letters have included financial abuse: This husband actually took the economic stimulus payment from his wife, a classic case of financial abuse where the abuser controls all the finances to maintain the power over his or her spouse in the relationship.

In another such case, this former wife forged her husband’s signature on an IRS tax form (a classic case of old-fashioned fraud) and one that could be punishable with a custodial sentence, if it could be proven that she acted maliciously and/or with criminal intent.

In the hat-trick of skulduggery of The Moneyist’s archive, this ex-wife dipped into her former husband’s bank account and helped herself to his stimulus payment (a classic case of sharp practice, given that she had every right to withdraw money from a joint account). 

Your case highlights the importance of filing a tax return with the IRS and keeping track of bank accounts. You can make a note of your husband’s refusal to hand this over during any future divorce proceedings. A judge is unlikely to look kindly on such stingy stimulus shenanigans.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook FB, -1.54% group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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