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Child support order- Can it be modified if I get SSDI?

There are many claimants who have been ordered to pay child support but have recently become disabled and now receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Recently on our disability forum we had a claimant ask, “I am paying child support from my SSDI payments but with my reduced income I was wondering if I can get the child support order modified?”


What is child support?


It surprises many, but child support is often the most litigious and contentious aspect of a divorce. Child support is money paid to support children after a divorce. The goal of child support is to continue to provide children with the lifestyle they have become accustomed to prior to the divorce.

How is child support calculated?


Child support is not calculated based on the division of marital assets or spousal misconduct. Instead child support is based on the needs of the child, the ability of the non-custodial parent to support him or herself, the standard of living of the children prior to the divorce and whether the non-custodial parent has additional children they must support.

Child support laws are determined by the state. In some states the calculation may depend only on the income of the non-custodial parent, while other states may consider both parent’s incomes. Additional child support considerations also vary by state such as the amount calculated for extra living expenses such as day care, healthcare costs and tuition.

Can I refuse to pay child support if I get SSDI benefits?


If you are paid Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) the Federal Government will garnish child support payments from your disability check before sending it to you. There will be no way for you to avoid paying your child support.

The good news is you will avoid some of the potential punishments of payment refusal such as the suspension of the non-paying parent's driver's license, revocation of a professional license or the seizure of your income tax refunds.

Can I get my child support payment modified if I get SSDI benefits?


Most SSDI recipients will have a reduction of income. So can you have the child support order modified? Yes, there are many reasons an order can be modified and it may be time for you to petition the court. Common grounds for a child support modification include:

  1. A reduction in the income of either parent.

  2. A serious illness or disability of either parent.

  3. A change in your child’s circumstances such as reaching the age of majority or inheriting money.

  4. A change in the financial circumstances of either parent.


Is my Supplemental Security Income or SSI payment garnished for child support?


Many custodial parents are surprised to find that if their ex-spouse is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI not SSDI) their payments are not garnished for child support. SSI is provided to disabled, aged or blind applicants who have VERY limited income and resources and who are unable to work. SSI is considered similar to welfare benefits and is not garnished.
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