Social Security and Child Support

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Child Support and Social Security Benefits on Friday, June 27, 2014

In our previous post, we discussed the impact of Social Security benefits as an additional retirement asset for certain qualifying spouses.  In this post, we take a look at the impact of Social Security benefits on child support.

A child can receive Social Security benefits in two different ways.  First, if the child suffers from a disability, the child can receive SSI (disability) benefits.  Second, if the child has a parent who suffers from a disability, the child can receive benefits through, but separate from, the Social Security benefits of the disabled parent.

In the first instance, where the child is disabled, our courts do not consider that income to the child as a credit toward child support.  Rather, the court sees that sum as separate and distinct from the obligation of the parent to pay support.  However, though the parent does not qualify for an automatic credit, the court may find that based on the income the child receives, the presumptive child support award may be unjust and inappropriate.

In the second instance, where the child receives payment through the Social Security benefits of a disabled parent, if the disabled parent is also obligated to pay child support, that parent may offset the support amount by the amount the child receives through Social Security.  The courts reason that since the disabled parent earned the benefits through past employment, the proceeds of that employment pay the child, and since proceeds of employment are income, not giving the disabled parent an offset would be tantamount to making that parent pay twice.

It is important to note that in order for the offset to apply, the Social Security benefits for the child must be paid to the parent owed support in order to trigger an offset.  Otherwise, we would have the reverse of the situation in the previous paragraph – rather than paying twice, the parent owing support would be relieved of part of the support obligation without the child receiving the offsetting benefit.

Social Security benefits also figure into the calculation of support in terms of income when completing the Form 14.  If either parent receives Social Security benefits, those benefits qualify as income and should be reported as such on the Form 14.  A parent who becomes disabled or retired and receives Social Security benefits may suffer a significant decrease in income that could reduce the presumptive child support amount or result in a reallocation of income proportions so that the child support owed may increase or decrease, depending upon the situation.

Social Security benefits can have a profound impact on child support in a variety of ways – a fact every recipient should keep in mind.

If you have questions about Social Security benefits and child support, contact us – we can help.

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