Wail Sarieh
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Can SSI/SSDI Payments Affect The Calculation Of Child Support?

Child Support

In the state of California, if you are a parent who is divorcing or already divorced – or if you are an unmarried parent in this state – and you are expecting to pay or receive monthly child support payments, the amount of those payments will be based primarily on the income of each parent, including any benefits they receive.

If one parent or the other receives Social Security benefits, how will that affect the amount of child support that a parent can expect to pay or receive?

Usually, the amount of child support payments in California is based on the state’s Child Support Guideline, a formula which provides a child support amount based on the earnings capacity of each parent, the children’s needs, and the amount of time children spend with parents.

Every child in California has the absolute right to financial support from both parents. Court-ordered child support, in the view of California lawmakers and courts, is no penalty, but a responsibility.

If you expect to make or receive child support payments after a divorce, or if you are an unmarried parent in a child support dispute, you will have to produce exhaustive details regarding your wages or salary, benefits, taxes, and deductions.

A California court will want to see paycheck stubs, tax returns, W2s, 1099s, bank statements, and probably a number of other financial documents.

FOR HOW LONG DOES CALIFORNIA REQUIRE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS?

Under the terms of most child support orders in the state of California, child support payments are required until a minor’s 18th birthday or until the 19th birthday if the minor still attends high school.

Payments may extend beyond those dates if both parents voluntary choose to continue the arrangement, or in some cases, if the child is mentally or physically disabled.

To receive child support payments, a custodial parent must ask for a court order compelling the payments from the non-custodial parent.

That request may be made during or subsequent to a divorce or if the child’s parents never married.

In Southern California, whether you are seeking child support payments or being ordered to make those payments, you will need to be advised and represented by an experienced Orange County family law attorney.

Some parents receive monthly benefits from the Social Security Administration through either the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program or through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

What is the distinction between these two benefit programs, and how can either program’s benefits impact a California child support order?

HOW ARE SSI AND SSDI DIFFERENT?

SSDI benefits are earned by workers who have compiled a sufficient number of Social Security work credits.

In contrast, SSI benefits are offered to those with little or no income who either haven’t worked or haven’t earned enough work credits for SSDI eligibility.

Parents who receive or apply for monthly benefit payments through either program need to know how those benefits may affect their child support calculation and payments. That’s explained next.

Only workers who have earned a sufficient number of Social Security work credits qualify for SSDI benefits.

If either parent receives a monthly SSDI benefit payment, it is considered income, and it is included in the child support calculations when the court determines a monthly child support payment amount.

Here in California, if a parent fails to make monthly child support payments completely and on time as ordered by the court, and if that parent is also a recipient of monthly SSDI benefit payments, a percentage of those SSDI benefits can be seized, and the parent’s monthly benefit payment will be reduced by that amount.

IF YOU CANNOT PAY CHILD SUPPORT AS ORDERED, WHAT MUST YOU DO?

When a parent in Southern California cannot make court-ordered child support payments, that parent must consult an Orange County family lawyer about requesting a modification of the child support order from the court.

A parent can’t just stop making child support payments; California imposes serious consequences for parents who are delinquent with child support, but a family law attorney can help.

Although it’s also administered by the Social Security Administration, the Supplemental Security Income or SSI program is entirely separate from the SSDI program. SSI is considered a public benefit, comparable to food stamps.

The SSI program makes benefit payments each month to low-income, disabled, or elderly adults and disabled or blind children.

Monthly SSI benefit payments are not categorized as income, and those benefits are not included in the child support calculations when a California court determines a monthly child support payment amount.

Monthly SSI benefits also may not be confiscated for delinquent child support payments or garnished to make child support payments in the future. The laws in states like Florida are different, so it is best to speak with a Florida family law lawyer.

WHAT ARE SSDI DERIVATIVE BENEFITS?

SSDI “derivative” benefits are available for some minors whose non-custodial parents receive SSDI payments. This is where the intersection of Social Security benefits and California child support payments gets complicated.

A minor can receive derivative SSDI benefits if the minor’s non-custodial parent – the parent who makes the child support payments – is an SSDI recipient. SSDI derivative benefits count as income for that parent.

Thus, when a child receives derivative SSDI benefits, the amount of the SSDI benefits received in the child’s name is subtracted from the child support order.

For example, if the SSDI payment that a child receives through the non-custodial parent is $300 a month, and if the non-custodial parent’s obligation under the state’s Child Support Guideline is $700 a month, a California court will set the monthly child support amount at $400.

HOW CAN A CHILD RECEIVE SSDI DERIVATIVE BENEFITS?

If you are a non-custodial parent and you receive monthly SSDI benefit payments, your child may be eligible for derivative SSDI benefits, and your child’s other parent – the custodial parent – may play a role.

If you are receiving or if you begin receiving SSDI benefits, notify your child’s other parent, who must then apply directly to the Social Security Administration to receive the derivative SSDI benefit payments.

Most child support issues in California are resolved through negotiation or mediation and without direct intervention by the courts.

In Southern California, in any legal matter or dispute that involves your child or children, an experienced Orange County family law attorney will work diligently for you and your child or children to bring the matter quickly to the best possible resolution for all parties involved.

Wail Sarieh
By Wail Sarieh