Can Disability Be Garnished for Child Support? Disability and Child Support Arrears

by Shay Fleming   ·  1 month ago  
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Navigating financial obligations can be daunting, especially when it involves family and legal responsibilities. If you receive disability benefits, you might wonder how this impacts your child support payments. Disability benefits are crucial for many people’s livelihood, and understanding if and how they can be garnished for child support arrears is essential. Depending on which program pays you disability benefits (Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance), you may need to make child support payments from your disability benefits. Read more to learn more about whether your disability benefits can be garnished for child support.

Can Disability Be Garnished for Child Support? Key Takeaways

  • SSDI can be garnished for child support arrears; SSI is protected due to its welfare nature.
  • Disability can affect income, potentially requiring modifications to child support based on new financial circumstances.
  • Navigating child support changes due to disability benefits often requires legal assistance to ensure fair obligations.
  • Disability does not exempt from child support; securing auxiliary benefits for children through SSDI may be necessary.
  • Consulting with family law attorneys is advisable to adjust child support orders appropriately and to advocate in court.

Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I’m on Disability?

When facing disability, understanding the types of disability benefits available is crucial. There are two main types of disability benefits through the Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Each type affects child support in different ways.

Can Child Support Be Taken From SSDI Disability?

SSDI is designed for individuals who have worked and paid into the Social Security system for a certain number of years. The amount of SSDI benefits received depends on the person’s earnings record. Importantly, SSDI is considered income when calculating child support payments and can be garnished to cover both current and past-due child support.

Can Child Support Be Taken From SSI Disability?

SSI, on the other hand, is a needs-based program intended to help aged, blind, and disabled individuals who have little or no income. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. SSI is not based on prior work history and is funded by general tax revenues. Since SSI is intended to support the most basic needs, most states do not consider it ‘income’ for child support purposes and it cannot be garnished for child support arrears.

Understanding these distinctions is essential for anyone navigating the complexities of disability and child support obligations.

What To Do If You’re on Disability Benefits, but Behind on Your Court-Ordered Payments

TO DO: Ask the judge to modify child support requirements given your current situation. You must keep making your payments while you wait on the decision, though.

Let’s take a closer look at each scenario.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defines garnishing as “when a creditor takes a portion of your paycheck or money from your bank account to collect money you owe. Garnishments generally require a court order that results from a judgment. However, certain debts owed to the government may also result in garnishment, even without a judgment.”

SSI & Child Support Arrears

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) pays benefits to children and adults with very few resources, little to no income, and no recent work history. They won’t garnish SSI benefits because they’re designed to cover your basic food and shelter needs. This includes any lump sum back benefits and SSI payments you have in a savings account.

TO DO: Talk to your banker to see if your SSI funds are protected from garnishment. (Some requirements apply.)

FYI: You may be able to apply for Social Security dependent benefits for your child. The Social Security Administration makes payments to children when a parent is eligible for either regular retirement or SSDI. Working with an attorney makes itthree times more likely your application is successful.

SSDI & Child Support Arrears

It’s completely legal to garnish Social Security Disability Insurance payments for child support arrears. Here are the rates from the Federal Wage Garnishment Law, Consumer Credit Protection Act Title III:

  • 60% of your disposable earnings if you’re single
  • 50% if you currently support either a spouse or a child
  • 5% more for payments that are more than 12 weeks past due

TO DO: Contact an experienced disability attorney if you disagree with a garnishment of your SSDI benefits. Getting legal help is more affordable than you think. Disability attorneys work on contingency, so you only pay a one-time fee if you win.

The federal government can also garnish your SSDI benefits for repayment of several specific government-secured debts, including:

  • Back taxes
  • Certain civil penalties
  • Defaulted federal loan payments (including federally backed student loans)

RELATED: It’s also possible to garnish regular Social Security benefits if you owe back child support payments. Section 459 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 659) authorizes the Federal government to withhold current and continuing Social Security payments to enforce your legal requirement to pay child support and other obligations.

Accommodations to Pay Your Child Support Obligation While on Disability

Being on SSDI does not exempt a parent from their child support obligations. However, the amount one might be required to pay can be adjusted based on the change in income due to disability.

  • Child Support Modifications: If a disability results in a significant decrease in income, it is possible to request a modification of the child support order. Courts consider disability benefits as income, especially in the case of SSDI. Therefore, while SSDI may be factored into child support calculations, it can also lead to a reduction in the amount owed if the disability significantly impacts the parent’s earning ability.
  • Applying for Modifications: To modify child support payments, a disabled parent must provide evidence of their disability and how it affects their financial situation. This usually involves a formal process through the courts, and it is advisable to seek legal assistance to navigate this process effectively.
  • Responsibilities of Disabled Parents: It’s important for disabled parents to understand that while they may receive some leniency in the calculation of support payments, the fundamental obligation to support their children remains. This includes ensuring that any benefits their children are eligible for, such as auxiliary benefits through SSDI, are secured.

Navigating child support payments while on disability can be complex, but understanding one’s legal options and responsibilities can help manage these obligations more effectively.

Seeking Legal Help to Pay Child Support While on Disability

Navigating the complexities of disability benefits and child support often requires legal expertise, especially when adjustments or disputes arise. Seeking legal help is crucial for protecting your rights and ensuring that your obligations are fair and accurately reflect your current circumstances.

Finding a Family Law Attorney: It is advisable for individuals dealing with child support and disability issues to seek out a family law attorney who specializes in these areas. These attorneys can provide critical guidance on how disability benefits are treated in family court and assist in modifying child support orders to suit changed financial circumstances due to disability.

Utilizing Legal Aid and Community Resources: For those who cannot afford private legal representation, legal aid societies and community legal clinics can offer assistance. These organizations typically provide services at low or no cost and are familiar with the nuances of disability and family law.

Preparing for Legal Consultations: When preparing to consult with a lawyer, gathering all relevant documentation regarding your disability benefits, financial status, and existing child support orders is essential. This preparation helps your attorney to efficiently assess your situation and provide accurate legal advice.

Advocacy and Representation in Court: A lawyer will not only advocate on your behalf but also represent you in court if necessary. They can navigate the legal system, file the necessary paperwork, and argue for a child support order that considers your ability to pay, given your disability status.

Legal support is invaluable for ensuring that disability benefits are properly considered in child support cases and for protecting recipients against undue financial burdens.

Plan Ahead to Meet Your Child Support Obligations While on Disability

Disability benefits can intersect significantly with child support obligations. This piece has clarified when and how your disability benefits might be garnished to cover child support arrears. Knowing these details helps you plan and manage your finances more effectively, ensuring you meet your obligations while maintaining your financial health. Remember, each situation is unique, so consider seeking professional advice tailored to your circumstances.

Shay Fleming is the SEO Content Manager at LeadingResponse. A proud graduate of Texas State University, she has been based in Austin since 2016, where she lives with her dog. Shay has contributed extensively to various domains, writing and publishing articles about real estate, investing, disability, and urban living.