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Social Security is Garnishing My Benefits for Child Support I Don’t Owe

Written by Steve Rhode

Question:

Dear Steve,

My Social Security Benefits are being garnished presumably for child support. The issue is that the garnishment is specifically for attorney fees and this attorney is using an old Child support order.

I have paid all of my child support and arrears. There are other legal issues but I believe that the maximum rate that can be garnished is 15% however I am being garnished at 50%. This garnishment assumes that this is a child support obligation and needs to have a court hearing but in the meantime I need relief.

What qualifies as “Child Support obligation” under Social Security guidelines?
If this can be a legitimate garnishment, What do I need to do to have this reduced to 15%?

I do have a lot of documentation, Is there any documentation that would help make this determination.

A Social Security Administrator in Austin Texas had her name placed on the “Writ of Garnishment” is it legitimate for the Social Security Administration to assist in “Attorney Fee” collection?

Doug

Answer:

Dear Doug,

Let me start off by saying I’m not an attorney and if you need to seek a legal remedy for this issue you must contact an attorney that is licensed in your state.

Since the issues involved here may be modified by your state law, seeking advice from an attorney in your state might be a smart move. The problem is “We can withhold Social Security benefits to enforce your legal obligation to pay child support, alimony or restitution. State laws determine a valid garnishment order. By law, we garnish current and continuing monthly benefits. We do not make retroactive adjustments. You cannot appeal to Social Security for implementing garnishment orders. If you disagree with the garnishment, contact an attorney or representative where the court issued the order.” – Source

So you’ll have to fix any issue at the level of the court that ordered the garnishment.

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Here is what I can tell you:

On the 50% Social Security Garnishment

“The system limits the garnishment amount to the lesser of the State maximum or the maximum under the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) (15 U.S.C. 1673(b)) and is based on the law of the State where the beneficiary resides. Hereafter, the CCPA limit is referred to as the “Federal” limit. The CCPA limits garnishment to:

  • 50%, if the beneficiary is supporting a spouse and/or child other than the spouse and/or child whose support has been ordered.
  • 60%, if the beneficiary is not supporting another spouse and/or child.
  • 55% or 65% respectively, if the garnishment order or other evidence submitted indicates the original support ordered is 12 or more weeks in arrears.” – Source

I don’t know all of the specifics of your case so it’s difficult to give you advice about very technical issues.

Child Support Means This to Social Security

But according to Social Security, “The term “child support”, when used in reference to the legal obligations of an individual to provide such support, means amounts required to be paid under a judgment, decree, or order, whether temporary, final, or subject to modification, issued by a court or an administrative agency of competent jurisdiction, for the support and maintenance of a child, including a child who has attained the age of majority under the law of the issuing State, or a child and the parent with whom the child is living, which provides for monetary support, health care, arrearages or reimbursement, and which may include other related costs and fees, interest and penalties, income withholding, attorney’s fees, and other relief.” – Source

I am completely sympathetic and have known others that have struggled to have child support halted when the obligations have been satisfied. It can be bureaucracy at its finest.

The good news is there is a path to follow to get this corrected. The bad news is it involves the court.

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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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