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What Can I Do About Child Support Garnishing My Social Security Check?

Written by Steve Rhode

Question:

Dear Steve,

While I was employed, I was paying child support through my employment check. I have since then taken very ill. Child support now is garnishing my social security disability check.

Without going in to a lot of detail child support is in contempt of court. They were applying my payments from my employment check to another account and were ordered by the court to turn over all information pertaining to whose account it was and how much was paid. This was never done. Yes, I have called them, but to no avail.

My problem with all the above I am far to ill to go to court myself or am I able to afford a lawyer.

Is there a way to stop the garnishment of my Social Security check, if it has been longer than sixty days?

Kit

Answer:

Dear Kit,

I asked Eric Olsen, the Executive Director at HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm for an answer to your question.

Here is what he had to say.

“Rules and laws are much more strict concerning the garnishment of Social Security for past-due child support and alimony. Garnishment of Social Security is initiated under state law. The Social Security Administrations website states, “You cannot appeal to Social Security for implementing garnishment orders.”

The percentage garnished depends on state law. Most states follow the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act. It provides that in the case of child support or alimony, 50% of SS or SSD, if you are supporting another child, is the maximum subject to garnishment. Otherwise, up to 60%, or 65%, if the support is over three months in arrears. SSI is considered welfare. It cannot be garnished for past-due child support.

The results can be draconian. There are limited options. If there is still current support, a motion to modify the amount of current support should be filed based on the lower income. An ex-spouse could agree to satisfy the past due child support, which would stop a garnishment. Or agree to garnishment of a lesser percentage. If the ex-spouse was on welfare and the past-support is owed to the state, the state could agree to a lower payment.

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A state or local child support enforcement agency, perhaps under the county District Attorney’s office, is often responsible for collection. They have the authority to modify the amount being garnished. They can be contacted informally without going to court. Child support and alimony cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. However, if a person owed $5000 in past-due child support, a chapter 13 bankruptcy could be filed, stopping a garnishment, providing to pay the past support over up to 60 months.”

It appears Eric gave you some reasonable options to consider in an imperfect situation.


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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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