Receiving federal aid may be your only way of seeking income to support yourself if you face an ongoing medical condition that keeps you from working. However, while this money comes from the US Government’s Social Security Agency (SSA), child support is handled in an Arkansas State Court. These two systems may not always work together. If you are relying on Social Security Disability (SSD), it is important to understand how a child support order may take money out of your SSD paychecks. For more information and to talk to an experienced Fayetteville AR disability lawyer, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today.
Can Disability Income be Used for Child Support in Arkansas?
Child support orders are often based on your combined income and the number of children you support. This means that parents who barely make ends-meet are not expected to pay high child support payments. Parents who make more money overall are expected to pay higher support costs, and each parent is expected to pay their fair share based on how much money they make. There is also an expectation that each child requires more support funds, and so paying to support more children means higher payments. However, if you support other children outside the order, such as stepchildren or children from another relationship, those will usually decrease your support payments on this order.
If you receive disability payments, there are two possible ways to receive them. If you worked for many years and accumulated “work credits” by paying your FICA taxes, you may eventually be eligible for Social Security’s retirement benefits. If you are severely injured or unable to work because of a long-term health issue, the SSA allows you to dip into these funds early to get payments. These disability benefits are known as SSDI (Social Security Disability Income).
If you did not work or do not have enough credits, you still may be able to apply for need-based disability. These benefits, known as SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are awarded to those who have no other income to support them. You may qualify for disability benefits if you are severely injured or very sick, but would not be eligible to receive retirement benefits through your work history.
Either way, if you need to rely on SSDI or SSI, your monthly income is likely low. This may mean that a court would order very low monthly child support payments. However, courts are only allowed to count your SSDI payments when counting your total income. Since you need SSI payments to support yourself, the Supreme Court of Arkansas held in Davis v. Office of Child Support Enforcement (2000) that SSI payments are exempt from counting as income when determining child support.
Garnishing Income from Disability Benefits in Arkansas
Just because your disability payments are not counted as “income” for determining child support does not mean that they are safe from wage garnishment. Wage garnishment is when the courts take money directly from your paychecks or other sources of income to pay outstanding court orders and other payments. Your wages can be garnished for child support, back taxes, and failure to pay loans. This is really a way to enforce a court order – to give it teeth and force the person to make payments. It is not, technically, a punishment.
If your child support order was based on your SSDI income or based on other income you receive alongside disability payments, you may still face a monthly child support order. This order is likely low if you need to rely on disability, and may require payments under $50 per month. However, if your disability income barely covers the costs you pay for medical care and personal needs like housing, food, and clothing, it may be difficult to make even small child support payments.
If you fail to pay your child support payments as ordered, the court may begin wage garnishment. Again, SSI (need-based disability) is safe from garnishment. But SSDI and other income may still be garnished in Arkansas.
However, if your income is only enough to sustain yourself, you may be entitled to have a court lower your child support. Especially if your order is based on your income before you started receiving disability, you may need to have this order modified in court.
Fayetteville Disability Lawyer
If you are seeking disability benefits, it is important to understand how those benefits are determined, and what may affect your final payments. Make sure to discuss how safe your disability benefits are, especially if you have outstanding bills, child support orders, or other debts that may come due. Our Fayetteville Social Security Disability lawyer Ken Kieklak may be able to help you understand your disability, your potential award, and what benefits you should seek. For a free consultation on your case, contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today at (479) 316-0438.