Child Support Arrears and Your Disability Benefit

Back child support can be withheld from many forms of income.
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Child support arrears reflect money owed to a custodial parent that was not paid when due. When a non-custodial parent frequently misses payments, the state may intervene to ensure he remains up to date on the current support obligation and pay an additional sum towards arrears. The state has many options to collect past child support, including garnishment of disability benefits.

Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability benefits are paid to individuals who can no longer work because of a medical condition. If you become disabled and receive this benefit, your child support obligation does not stop. Even if the amount you receive in benefits is considerably less than what you made when you were employed, you must continue to pay the court ordered amount.

If you no longer can afford to pay as ordered, you can ask the court to change the amount by filing for a modification. However, the modification will not affect the amount owed in arrears because it does not erase old debt. Although the courts might modify the amount of future payments, you must continue to pay money towards arrears.

Private Disability

If a non-custodial parent collects short term or long term disability from a private source, such as an insurance policy or employer, child support and arrears payments still continue as ordered. Similar to Social Security Disability, the absent parent may petition the court to modify future amounts owed but arrears amounts will not change. The parent must pay amounts owed from past years until arrears are paid in full.

Child Support Legislation

Federal legislation delegates the responsibility of collecting back child support to the state. The Social Security Administration requires that each state have a system in place to effectively collect current and past due support. As a result, in an effort to enforce child support and arrears payments, the state has the authority to:

  • Withhold or reduce any refund of state income tax owed to the non-custodial parent
  • Place a lien on any real or personal property owned by the non-custodial parent
  • Report arrearages to the credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies
  • Garnish the non-custodial parent's income, which includes wages, salaries, worker's compensation, disability and pension payments

Restrictions on Income Garnishments

The Consumer Credit Protection Act restricts how much money can be withheld from a non-custodial parent's income. If the parent currently supports another child or spouse, the maximum amount withheld from disability benefits cannot exceed 50 percent. If the parent does not have any other support obligations, the maximum withholding amount is 60 percent. An additional five percent can be withheld if the non-custodial parent is more than 12 weeks in arrears.

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