Cleveland father fighting for stimulus check garnished by government because of back child support

By law, the government can take stimulus checks to pay child support

Cleveland father fighting for stimulus check garnished by government because of back child support

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Several parents are contacting 19 News investigators, hurting after the government took their stimulus check.

One man is contesting the move in court, saying all the money should be his.

He has a lawyer helping him with his battle. That’s rare.

We found for most parents behind on child support, there’s no chance of being able to pay a lawyer to do that.

They’re instead consumed with the struggle to buy food and keep a roof over their head.

The man we’ll call Chris has a lot to say about how he got so behind in child support payments.

“I think it’s unfair,” he said. “I think it’s unjust and nobody listens.”

We are not fully naming Chris or showing his face to be sensitive to his family in this difficult time.

“This has become to me a cause that I am very interested in at this point,” he said. “There’s a glimmer of hope if we can get someone to listen.”

Chris is one of many parents in Northeast Ohio who did not receive stimulus money.

“I [got] a letter from the treasury saying they took it,” he said.

His stimulus check was garnished by the government and put toward the nearly $10,000 he owes in child support.

Now, he wants people to understand that not every parent who had a check taken from them is a deadbeat.

“The real problem lies with how you get to that point to begin with,” he said.

Chris is a self-employed marketing consultant.

He says he took a $96,000 hit just before his child support hearings began last year, meaning his income dropped significantly. But, he insists the court didn’t take that into account.

He says the records presented to the judge showed his prior income.

“That’s what the magistrate saw--not what my real income was,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, they assigned a support amount that was based on an income that was 40% higher than I actually make.”

From there, the accruing debt spiraled out of control. And now, in the middle of the pandemic, he’s lost even more work. Again, he says the court doesn’t seem to know or care when it comes to his payment amount.

“I’m drowning,” Chris said. “I am at this point am on the verge of bankruptcy, because of what this court has done.”

Chris has 50/50 custody of his three kids.

More than anything, he says he wants to provide for them.

That's why he borrowed money from his family to hire an attorney for the case.

In an attempt to get his stimulus money in a time of need right now, that same attorney filed a motion in court.

“I am extremely fortunate to have that,” he said. “You can see that it hasn’t helped that much as of yet, but maybe it will.”

If it does, he hopes it will help others too.

“The fight at this point is much more for people who will be dealing with this later than the current situation,” he said.

Again, we didn’t provide Chris’s full name not to protect him, but to protect his kids and ex-wife.

They asked we respect their privacy in this time.

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