Are Disability Benefits Subject to Child Support Payments?

Submitted by John on

The children of disabled workers generally receive an auxiliary benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit payments are intended to provide financial support for the entire family, including the children living with them. Some disabled workers may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as well as other types of support, like Medicaid and Medicare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and food stamps, among others.

For children not residing with the disabled worker, an auxiliary benefit is typically paid by the SSA. The benefit check is issued to the custodial parent and is intended to provide financial support for the child’s everyday needs in place of child support payments. In some cases however, the auxiliary SSD payment may not cover the amount of the monthly child support due to the custodial parent. For example, if you were behind on child support, and the past due payments and current payments add up to more than the amount of auxiliary SSD benefits issued each month, then there is the potential that your disability benefits may be subject to adjustment in order to give more support to your child(ren).

In general, SSD benefits are exempt from garnishment and other financial collection measures, according to “anti-assignment” provisions in the regulations that govern the SSD program. These provisions are intended to provide financial protection for disabled individuals by preventing debt collectors from exhausting the majority of monthly benefits received and which are essential for the disabled individual’s survival.

The anti-assignment provisions of the SSD program do not apply to alimony payments and child support payments though. These financial obligations for disabled workers remain in effect even though all other financial debts are prevented from affecting the amount of your SSD benefits received.

Every state has its own procedures for how disability income can be impacted by child support and alimony, though the amount of money which can be withheld for these obligations is the same nationwide. The national threshold is set at 65%, which means your disability payments can legally be reduced up to that threshold, should the amount of monthly child support you owe be that high.

In most states, an income withholding notice or order must be issued by a judge in order for child support payments to be withheld from your SSD benefits. This means the custodial parent(s) of your child(ren) must file for support to be withheld from your benefits in order to initiate the legal processes required.

Again, in most states, the process is such that after a judge rules on the issue of child support and your disability payments, a notice of income assignment must be processed and issued to the manager of the SSA’s branch or district office. The child support payments will then be initiated and the funds withheld automatically from your monthly SSD benefits will be sent through the local child support division, the same way support withheld from a paycheck with an employer is routed through the local child support office.

As previously mentioned, some disabled workers receive other types of support, including payments from SSI and other programs. While SSD benefits are subject to child support and alimony, SSI benefits are not. The support a disabled worker receives from other programs like TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid and Medicare are based on family members residing in the same household. In other words, the funds received from these programs are not affected by child support or other issues with children who do not live with you. Instead, if additional support is needed in the areas covered by these programs, the custodial parent would apply for these benefits individually on behalf of their own household, including your child(ren). If you are a child trying to obtain disability benefits through your parents, the process is much different.