If Owing Back Taxes or Child Support, Will the Government Take Lottery Winnings to Pay for It?

Child support is a legal obligation to provide your required share of financial assistance necessary to raise your child. If a court order for child support is established, the local child support enforcement agency in your state will aggressively work to collect the money owed. In addition to garnishing wages, denying passports and placing liens on any property you own, the state will intercept any lottery winnings needed to fulfill child support arrears.


Defining Income

Child support guidelines generally define "gross income" as all income from any source, earned or unearned. Possible sources include, but are not limited to, wages, salary, tips, commissions, bonuses, annuities, pensions, Social Security benefits, trust income, lottery winnings, interest, dividends, investment income, rental income, self-employment income and alimony. In most states, the court has the discretion to increase the child support order or require the parent to provide a trust fund for the child.


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Enforcement Notice

Lottery winnings are applied to child support arrears. If a noncustodial parent fails to comply with the existing child support order, the office of child support enforcement will mail a notice informing the parent that he is subject to consequences, such as imprisonment, license suspension, passport denial and interception of income tax refunds or lottery winnings. The parent generally has 30 days to bring the child support current or face possible action. State guidelines specify the amount a parent must owe before collection activity is taken. In Delaware, if a noncustodial parent owes more than $150 in delinquent child support, lottery winnings can be seized.


Intercepting Winnings

After a parent wins the lottery, her name is automatically compared to records from the state's department of social services to determine if it is on the intercept list. Similar to seizing an income tax refund, the state seizes the money and applies the balance toward child support. If a Wisconsin state lottery prize is worth $1,000 or more, the amount owed will automatically be taken from the winnings to satisfy the support. In Florida, lottery winnings over $600 are eligible for seizure. The lottery winnings can be seized regardless of whether the parent receives the winnings as a lump sum or as installment payments.


Amount Taken

The amount that can be taken from a noncustodial parent's winnings may vary depending on the state. For instance, under the New York program, up to 100 percent of lottery winnings can be taken to pay off child support debt. The state can also collect up to 50 percent of lottery winnings to repay welfare benefits. If the same noncustodial parent owes delinquent support to more than one child support case, any winnings collected will be distributed proportionately among the cases.



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