Can SSI Be Garnished For Child Support?

If you’re receiving SSI, having to pay child support may put more strain on your already strained finances. But can SSI be garnished for child support?

The short answer is no, SSI cannot be garnished for child support. The Social Security Act may have allowed for child support garnishment for certain types of social security benefits. But Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not one of them.

Whether you’re worried about losing your SSI benefits to child support or are trying to sue your ex-spouse for child support, here’s what you need to know.

What Does the Social Security Act Say About Garnishment?

Section 459 of the Social Security Act allows the garnishment of one’s income for child support and alimony obligations. However, not all types of income can be garnished.

According to this section, only money considered to be based upon remuneration for employment can be garnished. This includes:

  • wages
  • salary
  • commission
  • bonus
  • allowances
  • other fringe benefits (severance pay, incentive pay, and sick pay)
  • social security benefits that are payable on account of personal services rendered by the individual or any other individual, such as:
    – retirement
    – dependents or survivor’s benefits
  • compensation for death under any federal program
  • federal “black lung” benefits
  • veterans disability pay
  • workers compensation benefits
  • Railroad Retirement System benefits
  • benefits for certain World War II veterans

The section also specifies that child support payments must be mandated by the court or other administrative agency of competent jurisdiction.

Why SSI Can’t Be Garnished for Child Support

As mentioned, only payments considered to be remuneration for employment can be garnished for child support. SSI, however, is a needs-based benefit. Meaning, it’s given based on an individual’s need and not because they have worked for it.

Because of this, SSI benefit payments cannot be garnished for child support or alimony payments.

In a 2013 memorandum, the Office of Child Support Enforcement even urged state and tribal child support agencies to implement safeguards to ensure that SSI benefits are not garnished. They argued that inappropriate garnishments can result in hardship for the parties, and as such, contrary to the law.

A disabled mother who still cares for and supports her child from social security benefits.

What SSA Benefits Can Be Garnished for Child Support?

As I said above, only benefits that are part of remuneration or compensation for employment can be garnished. This means that social security benefits, except SSI, can be used for child support, including:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Retirement Benefits
  • Spouse/Dependent Benefits
  • Survivor Benefits

What If You’re Receiving Both SSDI and SSI?

If you’re receiving both SSDI and SSI, only the SSDI portion of your benefit payments will be garnished. The SSA will also withhold part of your SSDI before it’s sent to your bank account.

Child Support for SSI Recipients

If you are receiving SSI and are paying child support, your SSI benefits will not be included in your income for child support calculations.

In a similar vein, child support payments will be deducted from your SSI countable income. For instance, let’s say you’re earning $700 and paying $350 in child support. Only the remaining $350 will be included in your countable income, thus increasing your SSI benefits.

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About The Author

Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.