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March 27, 2021, 10:59 a.m. EDT

My husband and his ex-wife agreed that he could claim their kids on his taxes, but now she’s ‘demanding’ half their stimulus

‘I believe she didn’t adjust her budget when the alimony ended, and now she is looking for ways to receive more money from him’

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch

Dear Quentin,

My husband received a text from his ex-wife demanding part of the latest stimulus check for their two children. My husband received their stimulus checks for their boys because in their divorce settlement he was granted the ability to claim both boys as dependents on his taxes for as long as they can be claimed. He pays his ex-wife child support.

He was offered this during negotiations because they couldn’t agree on a monthly alimony amount. He agreed to a higher alimony payment ($200 more a month) because he would be able to claim the tax benefit. The alimony is now finished, and he paid her a flat amount on the equity of the home because he retained the home. That amount is also paid.

‘She tried to have the child support raised, but she makes more now and my husband’s income is relatively the same, so that was denied.’

She received money from him for 6 years, and that ended about 3 years ago. I believe she didn’t adjust her budget when the alimony ended, and now she is looking for ways to receive more money from him. She tried to have the child support raised, but she makes more now and my husband’s income is relatively the same, so that was denied.

He told her that he was not giving her any of the stimulus money. She said he “owes” her half because they should each get a stimulus for one of the kids. He reminded her that he agreed to the higher alimony amount specifically due to him being able to claim the kids. I agree with him that she should not receive any of the money.

I believe she will continue to demand money. What should we tell her?

Second Wife

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

Dear Second Wife,

He received the economic stimulus payment for their two children because, as per their divorce agreement, he claims them on his taxes as dependents. So far, so good. It would be difficult to find a legal way for him to hand over half of his children’s stimulus check to his ex. This is a public-health emergency, however. The Internal Revenue Service was enlisted to issue the stimulus checks in an effort to get cash to people as quickly as possible.

‘These are emergency funds to be used not as a cudgel in the aftermath of a bitter divorce, but to help families during strange and uncertain times.’

That does not mean that he deserves the money more than his ex-wife, even if it was agreed that he would claim their kids as a dependent. If they have joint custody, they should decide as parents and as the adults in the room how it should be spent on their children. If his ex-wife has full custody of the boys, he should give her the money. These are emergency funds to be used not as a cudgel in the aftermath of a bitter divorce, but to help families during strange and uncertain times.

The language in your letter is inflammatory, likely because you care for your husband and you believe her to be the unreasonable one in the relationship. But you are also only getting his side of the story. Similarly, those in her life hear her side of the story. Your theories on why she wants this money are both unfriendly and unfounded, and muddy an already complicated situation. Take the focus off the adults’ drama and put it on the children, instead.

The Moneyist: ‘My husband told me that my $1,400 stimulus check will be spent on aluminum siding on our home.’ What can I do?

<STRONG>Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out <INTERNET URL="https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneyist/" LOCATION="EXTERNAL">the Moneyist private Facebook</INTERNET><PHRASE TYPE="COMPANY" SIGNIFICANCE="PASSING-MENTION"><SYMBOL COUNTRY="US" TICKER="FB"></SYMBOL></PHRASE> 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.</STRONG>

<STRONG /> By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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