Can Child Support Be Taken from SSI?

For years now, child support has been collected for the most part through withholding income from a parent’s paycheck. However, if a parent is receiving workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it almost always causes the paying parent to ask, “Will child support still be taken from my benefits, even though I’m not working?”

Workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits can be garnished to pay child support because they’re programs that workers contribute to throughout their lifetimes. However, Supplemental Security Income is different and in a class of its own. SSI benefits cannot be garnished for child support.

SSI Benefits Not Subject to Garnishment

Unlike SSDI, which a worker contributes to by paying Social Security taxes, SSI is a federal income supplement program. It’s not funded by employees and employers; it’s funded by general tax revenues.

SSI is specifically designed to help those who are blind, disabled, or elderly and who have little to no income; it helps recipients meet their basic needs for food and shelter.

Federal law stipulates that SSI is untouchable as far as child support is concerned. Unlike disability and workers’ comp benefits, it can’t be taken by the local child support agency to pay child support.

SSI is not available to many people; it’s only given to qualifying individuals with an extremely limited income. Since SSI helps low-income individuals pay for their most basic needs, federal law won’t let these benefits be garnished to pay child support. Social Security disability benefits on the other hand, can be taken involuntarily to pay child support because they aren’t treated like welfare benefits the way SSI is.

Does SSI Relieve a Child Support Obligation?

If you receive SSI because you cannot work, it does not automatically relieve you of your child support obligation, nor does it reduce it. If you have a child support order and you are incapable of working, it’s critical that you petition the court for a downward modification immediately.

Until the court agrees to a downward modification that reflects your current circumstances, you will continue to owe the full amount and child support is not retroactive. Meaning, you can’t ask the court to go back to when you became disabled and ask for it to reduce your child support arrears.

Related: Should the Richer Parent Get Custody?

For legal representation in a child support matter in Ventura County, contact Cutter & Lax today. We are glad to address your issues swiftly.