Check-cashing for estranged divorcees
May 10, 2007 12:29 PM   Subscribe

John Doe has a check for about $450 from the Minnesota Dept of Revenue that is a state tax refund for 2004. The check is made payable to John Doe AND Jane Doe, with Jane Doe being John's ex-wife. John and Jane Doe no longer have a joint checking account nor are they on friendly speaking terms.

A call to the Dept of Revenue confirms that the check is still valid and has not yet been cashed.

During John and Jane's divorce (in 2006) it was determined that John would be responsible for a back-tax debt, which he paid in full to Jane (directly, via personal check) as ordered. Jane never paid the tax debt and John's 2006 state tax refund was garnished for the full amount (about $350).

John wants to be able to cash the $450 MN refund check, take out the $350 that was garnished from his 2006 refund, and then send 1/2 of the remainder to Jane. However, his bank will not cash the check without Jane's signature. Jane will not endorse the check unless John has, which would then allow her to keep the money, which she would do. (Jane lives 1000+ miles away and communication would have to occur via postal mail).

Is there any (legal) way that John will be able to cash this check without Jane's involvement? Will the state of MN reissue the check in John's name only, or change the "AND" to "AND/OR"?

Anonymous because Jane knows my user name but doesn't know about the MN check.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
John might be able to get it cashed somewhere other than a bank. Like a payday loan place?
posted by DU at 12:42 PM on May 10, 2007

Is there any (legal) way that John will be able to cash this check without Jane's involvement? Will the state of MN reissue the check in John's name only, or change the "AND" to "AND/OR"?

posted by jayder at 12:45 PM on May 10, 2007

in california, you just calendar another court appearance and go in, and if the wife doesn't show up or balks at signing, you can get the judge to order the clerk to sign the wife's name on the back of the check for her, and it's valid. done it on several occasions.
posted by bruce at 12:46 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

IANAL, but I can offer a few pieces of advice:

1. Two wrongs don't make a right. She should have paid the tax debt, but didn't; and, since this check was from 2004 taxes, and you were married in 2004, the check you have does, in fact, belong to both of you. Its dispensation should have been taken care of in the divorce settlement, but obviously it was overlooked.

2. That being said, it isn't a large enough amount of money that it's probably worth involving lawyers and the courts. Maybe you would be better off calling the Minnesota DoR and telling them that you know you received a refund for 2004, but you've lost the check, and is there any way they could do a direct deposit of the funds into a checking account? And then give them your personal checking account information.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:47 PM on May 10, 2007

I would never advocate breaking the law, and forgery is against the law. There is probably an absolutely tiny chance that you would be caught if you had some random woman endorse the check with Jane Doe's name and put it in your checking account.
posted by Megafly at 12:58 PM on May 10, 2007

However, when my husband attempted to deposit a check written to both of us into his individual account, the bank would only allow it if I was present and they could confirm my identity/signature. Your bank may not be so careful, of course, but if they are, Megafly's suggestion may prove to be problematic.
posted by ferociouskitty at 1:11 PM on May 10, 2007

sign your name, have someone else sign your ex-wife's name, and deposit it in the atm.

posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:15 PM on May 10, 2007

I would not take Megafly's suggestion. Forgery is a pretty serious crime and will cost you way more than the $450 in the long run. Try Bruce's suggestion. It would require Jane to travel 1000+ miles for a court appearence. And for what, $225 at best. That won't even cover her ticket (so she may very well decide to forego this one). If that doesn't work and there is no way to amicably resolve this with Jane, forget the $450 for now (and file the check away). This isn't a large enough amount to do anything stupid.
posted by special-k at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2007

Is the check actually dated 2004/2005? If so, the bank may well refuse to cash it anyway for being stale. Worth making sure before you go to anything resembling trouble over this.
posted by zachlipton at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2007

John could mail the cheque to Jane for signature, and wait for Jane to mail it back to him so he could sign it and deposit it.

Jane might never sign and send it, but she might.
posted by kika at 1:24 PM on May 10, 2007

Last year without thinking, I deposited my IRS refund check, jointly made out to my wife and me to a my personal account with only my endorsement.

It wasn't a big deal since we have access to each other's accounts, but the teller shouldn't have allowed me to do it.

So, I'd suggest endorsing it with your signature alone and trying to deposit it into your account and see what happens. I don't think it's forgery since you're not signing your wife's name. If one teller in one bank won't allow it say you forgot to have your wife sign it and then try another teller and/or bank until one accepts it.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:26 PM on May 10, 2007

Do not under any circumstances forge your ex-wife's name on that check.
posted by ND¢ at 2:07 PM on May 10, 2007

I quite confident that depositing it is a good choice. Cashing it on the other hand may be difficult. I made some pretty off-the-wall deposits in my time.
posted by winks007 at 2:16 PM on May 10, 2007

I suspect that, if you deposited it through your bank machine, it would go through without problems.
posted by acoutu at 2:37 PM on May 10, 2007

My question in this thread might help. Also, if that doesn't work and you can't find a sympathetic teller, I wonder if you could find a teller who would be willing to cash it IF you had a registered cheque made out to your ex at the same time.
posted by acoutu at 2:41 PM on May 10, 2007

Perhaps this is naive, but is it possible to endorse the check with "For Deposit Only into Acct: #####" (where ##### is John's account number) and then send it to Jane for endorsement? Does Jane think she doesn't owe you the $350? Is a threat of small claims court likely to pursuade her?
posted by JMOZ at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2007

I put checks in the atm all the time without signing the back at all. i often forget. maybe once a year one will come back to me for signature
posted by thilmony at 3:51 PM on May 10, 2007

Don't sign her name — though forgery is unlikely to be discovered or result in any consequences, I bet most of the cases where it does involve bitter exes.

Just sign your name and put it in an ATM. I'll bet you twenty bucks it just goes through.
posted by raf at 4:25 PM on May 10, 2007

legally? No.
It will go through at an ATM, Ive deposited checks made to both of us in my personal account, but its not really legal.
posted by subaruwrx at 4:39 PM on May 10, 2007

besides, its only $450. Eat it or sign it and send it to her and ask her to sign adn send you $225 back.
posted by subaruwrx at 4:39 PM on May 10, 2007

If you live near a casino, try that. Most of them will cash anything. They think you're just going to dump it back into a slot machine, so at worst (if the state refuses to pay them) they'll be out $450 in wear and tear on the machines.
posted by jaysus chris at 5:55 PM on May 10, 2007

Forget this. It will only be trouble without her signature. You do not need the trouble your ex could make for this amount of money. The IRS will consider this fraud. The reason IRS checks are so hard to cash is that they can be disputed by the IRS for a very long time. Banks hate this. Yes, you may be able to get it thru by ATM or a teller. If your ex fines out 15 yrs from she can still take action. If she finds out sooner, say this year the nice teller or the person that processed it thru the ATM will lose their jobs. If this check becomes disputed the bank folks lose their job because it is require to verify both signatures on an IRS check.
posted by dsaelf at 4:24 AM on May 11, 2007

John should call his lawyer.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:01 AM on May 11, 2007

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