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Collecting unpaid child support from payor's Social Security

Sometimes, a parent who is ordered to pay child support does not make the payments, whether it is because they are having trouble coming up with the money or they are simply refusing to pay. No matter the reason, California parents who are not receiving the payments could collect from the payor's Social Security benefits.

Whether a parent can collect back payments is based on the type of Social Security benefits the payor is receiving. For example, Supplemental Security Income is a welfare benefit, not an earned benefit such as survivor, retirement or disability benefits. The federal government, therefore, does not permit the garnishment of child support payments from SSI.

However, other Social Security benefits may be garnished if a payor is not making the payments or owes previous payments. The parent collecting child support can ask their local Social Security office to impose the garnishment. This may also be possible if the payor has a pending application for benefits. The collecting parent must go to court to prove that the payor has failed to fulfill the obligation and to obtain an income withholding order.

When the local office is handed this order, the representative will submit the necessary details into the database so that the system starts to withhold the payments. In the case of back payments, a percentage could be withheld. Federal law allows for up to 65 percent of the monthly benefits to be withheld. If the payor is not receiving benefits at the time, the garnishment order remains on file and will kick in if the payor starts to collect.

In some situations, a collecting parent is unable to collect enough from Social Security benefits to cover all of the child support they are owed. When this is the case, a parent could go to their local child support agencies for further support in obtaining the unpaid support. If they continue to have trouble, they could get help taking legal action from divorce attorneys.

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

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