Saturday, May 08, 2021
46.0°F

Fresh off divorce, stimulus strings can be scary

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | May 4, 2021 1:00 AM

As if breaking up wasn't already hard to do.

When money is involved, it adds a whole new level of distress.

"So much of our independence is wrapped into what we can financially do," said Safe Passage executive director Chauntelle Lieske said. "When you're looking at domestic violence, the financial (aspect) is one of the biggest tactics abusers use."

For some who have separated, divorced or otherwise exited abusive or hostile relationships in the past year, economic stimulus funds and tax returns might not be so easy to obtain.

A Kootenai County resident whose divorce was finalized late last year spoke to The Press on condition of anonymity for safety reasons. Her name, Social Security information, tax information and marital status have all been updated. Yet the payments for this person and her children, who have no blood relation to the former spouse, continue to be sent to the ex.

The ex released the funds in a timely manner and did not try to hold them, but it still involved uncomfortable conversations the spouse said she would much rather do without.

"If the U.S. government says they are paying funds to each person and child, they should make it payable to the individual adults and/or the custodial parent," the resident said. "By not doing so, they are subjecting victims of abuse to additional financial abuse and control."

This creates an untenable situation, the resident said.

"Having to go back to get this money is not only extremely uncomfortable, but not necessary," the resident said. "The IRS needs to get its act together and quit putting (people) who have divorced and moved on in a situation where someone else is in control of money intended for them."

When contacting the IRS regarding the matter, IRS media relations spokeswoman Karen Connelly respectfully said she could not comment.

"Federal disclosure law makes it against the law to comment on any specific taxpayer or their relationship with the IRS," Connelly said.

However, on www.irs.gov, resources are available under "Innocent Spouse Questions and Answers." It includes a special form an individual is encouraged to file as soon as they become aware of a tax liability for which they believe only a spouse or former spouse should be held. This could be from underreporting or a host of other items.

Lieske said these situations are complex and each case is unique, but Safe Passage has resources to assist.

"It’s one of those things I think people often overlook, that it is domestic violence if you don't have access to financials or control there," Lieske said. "This is one thing we can help with. We have financial resources, we have the ability to talk with people about that situation. We can help."

Safe Passage: 208-664-9303 or www.safepassageid.org