Can Disability Benefits Be Garnished as Child Support?

Disability Benefits and Child Support

Disability benefits can help you pay your medical bills and everyday living expenses if you become disabled and unable to work. These benefits are a federal program through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

If you pay child support and start to receive disability benefits, there are certain factors and options you should be aware of, such as payment garnishment, modifying your child support order, and dependent benefits.

Disability Payments as Child Support

Whether or not your disability benefits payments will be garnished for child support depends on what type of benefits you receive. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on your work history and paid into through employment taxes.


If you receive SSDI as your form of disability benefits and you fall behind in paying your child support, then these payments may be seized. They can be used to pay off past due or current child support. Also, if you get a lump sum of back payments from the SSA, a percentage of this payment could also be garnished to go towards child support.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is a form of disability benefit that is based on financial need, not work history.

These payments are intended to be a basic, subsistence-level type of financial support, and therefore, they cannot be seized to go towards child support payments under any circumstances.

Options for Paying Child Support when on Disability Payments

If you are having trouble paying your child support while on disability, there are a few options available to you. First, you can attempt to modify your child support order.

To do this, you can argue with the court system presiding over your case, which is usually the state in which the child lives. At your hearing, you’ll need to be able to argue that your illness has caused you to experience an increased financial hardship. If you are able to communicate well with the other parent, you can also negotiate a new agreement on your own.

Be sure to put it in writing and have it officially approved by a judge.

Note that it is usually easier to get a child support modification approved if you are receiving SSI benefits. SSDI benefits, of course, can also be used to approve a modification, but they are usually treated the same as other income, and the acceptance rate varies state-to-state.

Another option is to apply for social security dependent benefits for your child. To do this, be sure that your child meets the eligibility requirements for dependent benefits, including:

  • Unmarried, and
  • Under 18, or
  • Under 19 if a full-time student, or
  • Disabled before the age of 22

Getting Help

If you are having trouble paying your child support with your disability payment amount or are confused about your options, consider seeking the assistance of a lawyer or disability advocate. A lawyer or advocate can help you understand your options, seek a child support modification, apply for dependent benefits, and more.

Additional Resources