Wage garnishment is one of the strongest tools that courts have to make sure that people continue to make court-ordered payments. You can have money taken directly out of your paychecks if you fail to pay things like child support or alimony, but also for failure to pay back taxes and loans. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is money you pay your former spouse after a divorce. If a court ordered you to pay alimony, you may be required to pay from your disability income, even if you depend on disability for your own support. However, there are times where a court shouldn’t go after your disability benefits, and you may be able to protect your Social Security Disability benefits. For a consultation on your disability case, contact Ken Kieklak, Fayetteville AR disability lawyer.
Does Disability Count as Income for Alimony?
When courts determine alimony, they look at a number of factors. Usually, the party who pays alimony is the party that has a job and makes more income than the other spouse. Parties may receive alimony if they are physically unable to work or cannot work because they spend that time raising children. It is rare that these factors would work in such a way that someone who is already disabled would end up paying alimony. In fact, unless both spouses are disabled, the party suffering from a disability is more likely to receive alimony after a divorce than be asked to pay it.
If you were already paying alimony before you became disabled, you may need to continue paying that alimony. If a court has ordered you to pay spousal support, you cannot stop paying until the court order has changed the order. However, becoming disabled, leaving your job, and receiving disability is likely a good enough reason to support a request to change alimony. That means you can ask the court to take another look at your finances and make a new determination about who pays alimony.
When courts recalculate your income and other factors, they may not be able to include your disability payments as “income” for this calculation.
There are two types of disability benefits you can receive:
- Social Security Disability (also called Social Security Disability Insurance, and typically shortened to “SSD” or “SSDI”), which is based on your work history; and
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is need-based.
If you have a long history of working and would be able to receive Social Security benefits when you retire, you can tap into those funds early if you become disabled. These funds are paid as SSD, and are considered income for things like alimony determinations. This means when a court calculates your income, they can include at the money you get from SSDI.
If you are unable to work, but do not have enough “work credits” from years of work, you may be able to apply for SSI. This is need-based, and requires you to prove your disability, prove you have no other income that can support you, and get approval from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits may NOT be counted as income, and are supposed to go directly to your own support.
Can Courts Garnish SSI or SSDI in Arkansas?
Because SSI is need-based, and is meant to go to your support, courts cannot usually garnish this money. In most cases, those who rely upon SSI will have no other source of income, and courts should calculate that they have very little income. In these cases, judges should not be asking for alimony in the first place, let alone taking it directly from your paycheck. Because you have proven to the SSA that you need the SSI payments to support yourself, the courts should not ask you to pay a portion of that to a former spouse.
If you qualify for SSDI, you may still face garnishment from these payments. SSDI payments do require some type of need, i.e. that you are disabled and cannot work. However, since they are based on your past ability to work and not financial need, courts may still garnish these wages.
Regardless of which type of disability you receive, you may have an alternate method of protecting your benefits. Your former spouse may not be able to get alimony from you if your income is too low, but may still need support. In many cases, your spouse can receive disability payments for themselves when you are on SSDI. Talk to an attorney about how your ex-spouse may be able to receive disability payments on your work record or through your disability payments, rather than pressure you for alimony.
Fayetteville Disability Lawyer
If you are receiving or need to receive disability payments in Arkansas, take your case to Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law. Ken is a Fayetteville Social Security Disability lawyer who helps disabled Arkansans get the disability benefits they need, and understand the rules surrounding how they can protect this disability income. For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (479) 316-0438.
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