How Should We Handle Stimulus Checks for Separated Couples in Virginia During COVID-19?

By now many people in Virginia have received their stimulus checks provided by the federal government as a means to provide assistance during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Each eligible taxpayer on average can receive up to $1,200.00 plus an additional $500.00 per child, with a married couple with two children receiving up to $3,400.00, with phase outs occurring on a staggered basis as income reaches varies levels.

But what happens to this stimulus check when it comes to a couple who is in the midst of divorce? Who can receive the check and must the spouses share the amount?

As with most questions regarding COVID-19 and family law, the answers are still unknown because the courts in Virginia are still operating under a limited basis and have not necessarily been able to address these types of equitable distribution questions. Based on national conversations between family law attorneys coupled with Virginia law, it would seem that the stimulus checks are generally marital property, based on a couples’ past joint tax return (assuming a recent separation) and thus subject to division.

The most common wisdom seems to state parties should split their stimulus proceeds in a 50-50 manner, especially if both parties worked during the marriage, and evenly share in the stimulus, or, if unwilling to share, a party had best be prepared to explain to a judge valid reasons why the stimulus wasn’t shared. The dependent child portion of the stimulus may also be shared, although there’s a strong argument to be had for the primary custodial parent to receive all of the dependent child (children) stimulus, especially if child support has not been yet Ordered in the case of freshly separated parents.

One caveat to having stimulus check conversations with a soon to be ex-spouse – remember the stimulus checks are being digitally sent to bank accounts for those parties who filed their taxes online and linked a bank account previously to received refunds or pay taxes owed. This can conceivably result in a spouse’s portion of a stimulus check being deposited into a former joint checking account that one spouse may no longer have access to. Thus, it becomes imperative to have a conversation with your former partner sooner rather than later regarding dividing up the COVID-19 stimulus checks.

If you have questions about equitable distribution or child or spousal support  and the impact of COVID-19 on the same during these unprecedented times, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (804) 423-1382 or by email at