How Child Support Affects SSD Benefits

Are you unable to work due to a medical condition or injury, but currently pay child support? If so, you likely have questions regarding Social Security Disability or SSD.

Will I be required to continue paying child support? How can I afford it when my wages have been cut so drastically? Is it possible for my wages or disability benefits to be garnished?

These questions are incredibly important, which is why the Law Offices of Michael Hartup are sharing information you need to know about SSD and child support in the blog below. For more help with a disability claim in Tennessee, contact us online or call our office at 731-424-5559.

If I claim disability, will I still be required to pay child support?

Claiming Social Security Disability benefits does not mean you will no longer have to pay child support. You will still be required to pay the mandated amount. 

However, there are steps you can take if you find that you are no longer able to afford your current payment amount.

What should I do if I can no longer afford to pay child support?

You may be able to decrease the amount of child support you’re paying while claiming disability. Depending on your current situation, you can speak with your co-parent to set up a different plan, or you can go through the court system to get the payment order modified.

Discuss payment adjustments with your co-parent

If you are legally able to adjust payments with your co-parent, ask for a meeting to formally explain why you are financially unable to continue with the agreed-upon amount of monthly child support. This is an easier option than going to court.

It’s important to give the co-parent background on your injury or illness and explain how this results in a decrease in your monthly wages. This will help them understand why it’s not feasible to continue with the previously agreed-upon amount.

Keep in mind that your co-parent may ask for proof, to which they are entitled. In this case, you will want to have your Award for Disability letter, along with a letter from your physician that outlines your limitations and reasoning for being unable to work.

If the co-parent agrees to new terms, you will both need to formally put the new terms in writing and sign and date the document. The two of you can then go to the court and have a judge approve the new amount. Having the approval of a judge isn’t required, but it can help enforce your new agreement in the future.

Organize a modification hearing before a judge

If no agreement can be made with the co-parent, you will need to go to court. Though child support can be enforced at the federal level, it is governed by state law. You must go through the appropriate court system, which is usually the state in which your child lives.

You’ll need to organize a modification hearing. During this hearing, you will need the Award for Disability letter and a letter from your physician to prove your limitations or why you cannot work. 

The judge will ask a series of questions pertaining to wage amounts, time spent with each parent, and so on, before making a final determination. It varies by court system, but many courts take the following information into account when deciding whether child support payments should be modified:

  • Whether a parent has become disabled
  • Whether a parent is experiencing financial hardship (due to COVID-19, for example)
  • Current job status of either parent
  • Earnings of both parents
  • Custody arrangements
  • Changes in child care expenses, cost of living, or household size

It is important to note that if you owe back-dated child support, those amounts will not be lowered when petitioning the court to lower future payments due to your disability claim.

Is SSD treated as my income when calculating child support payments?

In general, yes, SSDI is usually treated as income. How your child’s benefits are determined can vary by state, however. For example, in Tennessee, the parent who receives benefits treats their child’s SSD payments as gross income. This is important to note since child support payments are calculated based on parental income. 

Will I be subject to wage garnishment?

It is possible for your Social Security benefit check, or a portion of it, to be garnished in order to pay your owed child support. Your co-parent can obtain information about your benefits by using the State Verification and Exchange System (SVES)

The Social Security Administration states that they garnish current and continuing monthly benefits, but do not make retroactive adjustments. The SSA works with the local state agency when handling lump sum payments and distributing the amount to the beneficiary.

Most states, including Tennessee, follow the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), which provides consumer protection against lenders. This federal legislation allows for 50 to 60 percent of a disability check to be garnished, along with another five percent on top of that, if back child support is owed. The CCPA helps consumers continue paying other obligations as well.

What if I need more help understanding my SSD benefits and child support?

To understand how child support is affected by SSD benefits in your state, contact your local child support office, which can be found on the Administration for Children & Families website

How child support is determined can be confusing and overwhelming. So can the process for applying for and receiving SSDI. Working with a disability lawyer isn’t required when attempting to modify your child support payments; however, an attorney’s expertise and knowledge of the law can be valuable if you have to go to court.

The Law Offices of Michael Hartup is proud to serve clients with Social Security Disability claims via our Jackson, Tennessee, office. We are ready to discuss your situation and help you determine your child support and SSD benefits options. Please call our office at 731-424-5559 or contact us online. Like our page on Facebook to learn more about Social Security Disability.