Can Disability Benefits Be Taken to Pay Child Support?

November 3, 2023

At its core, the objective of child support payments is simple and straightforward: It is to divide the costs associated with raising a child or children between divorced or separated parents.

As a nation, we have long held the belief that parents have a responsibility to support their children financially. For this reason, courts frequently require parents who don’t have custody of a child to pay child support.

But what if you’re not able to work because of a disability, and you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits? Can child support be taken from your disability benefits?

The court-ordered legal process that takes part of a defendant’s income to pay a debt to another party is known as garnishment. Whether your Social Security Disability benefits can be garnished depends on the type of benefit you’re receiving.

If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments and you have been ordered by a court to pay child support (and/or alimony), the Social Security Administration (SSA) can garnish part of your continuing monthly benefits to satisfy the court order.

Because qualifying for disability payments can take a considerable length of time, successful claimants are often awarded back pay in a lump sum which can also be garnished.

The maximum amount that can be garnished from Social Security Disability for child support is:

•50%: If you support another child.
•60%: If you don’t support another child.
•65%: If the support is past due by more than 12 weeks.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, on the other hand, can never be taken to pay any type of debt, since they are intended to pay for subsistence-level food and shelter for the recipient.

If you are approved for SSI benefits, your back pay and your monthly payments cannot be garnished. However, if you are awarded SSI benefits, they may be reduced if you are receiving child support payments.

Your children may also qualify to receive what are known as auxiliary benefits if you have been approved for SSDI (SSI does not allow for auxiliary benefits).

Your children must be your biological children or dependent stepchildren. They must have their own Social Security number. And they must be unmarried and under 18 years old. However, if they are still in high school, your child can receive auxiliary benefits until they are 19 or until they graduate, whichever comes first.

Because this can be an additional source of financial support for your children, we encourage all eligible parents to apply for auxiliary benefits.

From time to time, we hear from disability benefit recipients who are subject to garnishment and are struggling financially. They ask if there is a way to get Social Security to reduce the garnishment amount.

If you want a modification of a garnishment order, you may contact the SSA, but you should take your case to the court that issued the child support order. Your best course of action is to contact your family law attorney. If you do not have an attorney, you can contact the team of Chicago disability lawyers at Nash Disability Law for a referral to a family law attorney.

We cannot advise you on child support payment or issues. Our disability attorneys can help you if you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits because you have an impairment which prevents you from working or if you have been turned down for benefits.

At Nash Disability Law, we can give you a free evaluation of your case. Contact us today to discuss your situation or to schedule an appointment.