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Disability and Child Support

How a Parent's Disability Impacts Child Support Payments

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Wheelchair user shopping in supermarket
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Disability and Child Support Payments

When a parent charged with paying child support is disabled, the custodial parent may wonder what will happen to the child support payments. The obligation to support a child does not cease if a parent becomes disabled. Custodial parents should ask the following questions, in the event that their co-parent becomes disabled:

Does the parent have disability insurance?

If the disabled parent receives disability insurance benefits, generally provided by the employer, the disabled parent should continue to pay child support. It's quite possible that the parent's disability payments will be less than his/her regular pay. Because the child support formula is based on a parent's income, it's possible that a parent may be able to seek a modification for the span of the disability.

Is the parent's disability temporary or permanent?

A court will usually order a temporary modification of child support if the disability is temporary. For example, the court may decrease the child support amount for the term of the disability. If the disability continues, a parent should go back to court and request that the modified child support payments continue.

A court will generally order a permanent modification of child support if a parent's disability is permanent. A court will base the modified child support payments on disability payments, as well as any additional income received by the disabled parent.

Wage Garnishments and Disability Payments

Some disability benefits may be garnished for child support non-payment. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a government program for lower income, disabled persons. Wages paid by SSI cannot be garnished. On the other hand, social security disability benefits can be garnished for child support non-payment.

Parents struggling to pay child support should seek a modification of child support prior to having their wages garnished. A modification may be granted for such situations as a decrease of income. If parents return to court for a modification of child support, the court will evaluate the nature of the disability, as well as the expected duration of the disability. Handling child support for a disabled parent may be tricky. Parents should look to their individual state laws and state resources for help.

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