Can Social Security Disability Benefits Be Garnished?

Posted by Allison Sullivan on Sep 14, 2017 1:03:58 PM

If you have been paying child support and become injured or disabled and unable to work, you may be facing a future where Social Security Disability is either your primary or even sole source of income.

When you have child support or alimony obligations, this can add a new weight of worry onto your mind — can Social Security Disability benefits be garnished to pay child support?

What does this mean for your household income moving forward? Can you work with the child's other parent through mediation or even in court to modify your child support obligations based on your new SSI or SSDI income?

Let's take a closer look.


There are two types of benefits administered by the Social Security Administration: Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is designed for those who have not worked or have not paid much into the system, and Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is designed for those those who have worked and paid into the social security system until the medical condition or conditions prevented them from returning to work..

Because of how the different types of benefits are managed, it is generally easier to have child support modified when one receives SSI than SSDI.

SSI is a needs-based benefit and those eligible generally have little to no income, few assets and no other real financial resources. Many states do not count SSI in an evaluation of overall income when qualifying child support payments, although some do.

SSDI is usually treated by the courts similarly to other income sources, so a disability insurance
benefit recipient may not be eligible for a modification, depending on the overall income calculations. Each state has a different way of treating SSDI benefits, including those for children.
If you are currently receiving SSI benefits in your child's name, due to your child being disabled, you may find that your dependent's benefits are calculated as income in some states and not in others. This could affect your ability to have your child support payments modified, although that would depend on specific details of your situation.

Generally, dependents of disabled workers receiving SSDI benefits may be eligible for up to one-half of the workers’ monthly benefit amount. The custodial parent is responsible for filing the application and paperwork for the payment of the dependent’s benefit, which is payable up to age 18. The dependent may also be eligible for payment of past-due benefits. If the dependent is found eligible for monthly benefits or past-due benefits, child support obligations may be modified in light of these payments. This modification would need to be approved by the family court or through mediation.

Garnishing Social Security Benefits For Child Support

If you are awarded SSI, your benefits cannot be garnished to make child support payments.

If you receive SSDI and you are under court orders to pay child support or alimony, your benefits can be garnished to satisfy your legal obligation. It is advised to continue paying your current child support amounts until a modification is decided upon and takes full effect.

Choosing not to pay your child support in full could lead to jail time for failure to pay, even if you leave the state where you were ordered to pay child support.

If your wages have changed due to no longer being able to work, and you are receiving Social Security Disability payments, it may be wise to ask your ex-partner to work with you using assisted mediation to work out a new child support payment amount that is satisfactory to both parties.

Modification Negotiation With the Other Parent

It is often not necessary to return to court to put together and effect a child support modification with the child's other parent. Ask them to meet with you with a legal representative present, and explain the changes in your income and circumstances.

We find it best to have documentation on-hand proving the change in circumstance — a doctor's statement about your disability or proof that you will be receiving SSI or SSDI in lieu of being able to work.

Working with legal representatives in assisted mediation can help you define and develop  modified child support plan, including lowered payments or even non-financial support (like before- or after-school care or a change in custody arrangements) that help to offset the shift in child support payment amounts.

Questions About SSDI Claims in Columbia, SC?

Our Social Security Disability team is on-hand to help with Social Security Disability claims, including initial claims as well as working with you after an initial denial, and our legal representatives would be happy to speak with you regarding your unique situation.

We're here to help with Social Security Disability and more in Columbia, SC. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time to request your free consultation.

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Topics: Social Security Disability