The quadruple weekend murder on North Randolph Street that rocked Indianapolis followed a domestic dispute over stimulus control, court records have shown.
Details of the story between Malik Halfacre, the suspect, and his child’s mother, who survived the shooting, are not yet known. Her fallout, however, begs the question: what options are available to divorced or separated couples who are at odds over who receives federal benefits?
IndyStar spoke to family lawyers to learn what recourse options are available.
Recently divorced couples are at greater risk
Because Stimulus Checks are deposited into the bank account associated with a person’s tax returns, couples who are divorced but file tax together as a married couple may have problems with the single deposit breakdown, said John Floreancig, general counsel at Indianapolis Legal Aid society.
“Because when you file your own taxes, you get your own stimulus check,” said Floreancig.
If a divorced couple is at odds over who will receive what amount of the stimulus payments, they can ask a judge to rule on the matter as part of the divorce process.
“As long as the (divorce) decree has not been issued, they could certainly agree on how to separate or who will get it. Or a final divorce negotiation could be litigation,” said Floreancig.
Custody battles can make it difficult for whoever receives a check
Court records show the suspect and surviving victim of the North Randolph Street shooting were never married. The mother requested a judge to have Halfacre pay child support as part of her application for an injunction in October 2020, but the judge did not allow that request at the time.
Because families receive additional incentive money if the couple has dependents, disputes can arise between unmarried parents with a common child. It can get complicated when the couple split custody from year to year, said family law attorney Melissa Avery, who works at Broyles Kight & Ricafort.
“It is very common for a custody agreement or court order to state that mom has custody of Little Johnny and dad pays child support. And mom can claim Little Johnny as her dependent in even years, and dad can claim Little Johnny is dependent on odd years, “said Avery.
“If that’s the order, Dad would have claimed him in 2019, even though he’s not the steward of Johnny. And he’s going to put the stimulus money into his account.”
More:Here’s What You Need to Know About $ 300 Indiana Unemployment Benefit Payments
As with divorce, couples with custody issues currently being tried in court should ensure that the matter is brought up to the judge, Avery said.
“There are a lot of people who may have something pending in court anyway because they’re going through a change in child benefit due to a change in income or job loss,” Avery said.
“So if you are already going through legal proceedings, this would surely be an issue you would like to address and ask a judge to resolve it for you.”
Increasing the child tax credit can lead to disputes
Another element from the recent Biden government stimulus package that could exacerbate custody disputes is the child tax credit, which is $ 3,000 for 2021 for children ages 6-17 and $ 3,600 for children under 6 for many families was increased.
That increase means “people are likely to fight harder for the right to have the child than dependent in their custody and child support,” Avery said.
The IRS can also enforce who gets the credit if it chooses to screen a taxpayer, Avery said. The federal tax agency would look into who has the child most of the time.
“I think that would only happen if both parents claim the child as dependent, and that has led the IRS to come back to them and ask for evidence,” Avery added.
Call IndyStar court reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny