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Social Security benefits and child support collections

Many New Jersey custodial parents are owed back child support. This situation may be exacerbated if the parent who is delinquent indicates an inability to make payments because their income consists of Social Security benefits. In reality, some Social Security benefits can be garnished to cover a child support obligation. However, the type of benefit determines whether this is possible.

In the case of Supplemental Security Income, benefits cannot be garnished because they are considered to be a form of welfare. However, disability and retirement benefits could be garnished to satisfy a parent's support obligation. Additionally, it is important for the parent who is owed payments to recognize that there may be personal benefits due to the child under the delinquent parent's Social Security account. Both retirement and disability benefits allow for a family benefit that provides for payments to children under the age of 18.

An individual's receipt of some Social Security benefits could cease, in which case the garnishment would end. However, the garnishment order would allow for future collection if the benefits were to resume at a later date. In attempting to obtain delinquent funds through this method, the parent who is owed the support can in some cases have a state agency assist with the initiation of the garnishment process.

A parent whose circumstances change might find that making child support payments in accordance with a prior order could become difficult. One who is living on Social Security benefits might want to discuss the situation with a family law attorney in order to seek a support modification. Typically, the court will consider modifying the terms of an existing child support order if the financial circumstances of the parent required to make the payments have changed.

Source: Time, "How to Collect Child Support from an Ex's Social Security Benefits", Kerri Anne Renzulli, March 17, 2015

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