When a non-custodial parent is receiving Social Security benefits and is failing to pay required child support, the custodial parent may be able to garnish a portion of those benefits through a subsequent court order. The ability to garnish Social Security benefits will depend on the kind of benefits the nonpaying parent receives, however, as Supplemental Security Insurance cannot be garnished.
SSI is considered to be a type of welfare benefit as it is not dependent on whether the recipient has gained credits by paying into the system. All other types of Social Security benefits may be garnished, including retirement and disability. The first step the custodial parent should thus take is to determine the type of benefits the nonpaying parent receives.
The parent who is owed the money then can file a motion with the court having jurisdiction seeking a garnishment order. Upon receipt of it, the parent can then take it to the Social Security Administration to initiate benefits withholding. If the nonpaying parent is eligible for benefits but has not yet started receiving them, the agency will keep the order on file and begin withholding once payments start being made.
Child support orders are issued in part to ensure that the children enjoy the same standard of living they would have had if their parents had remained together. Courts do not look kindly on parents who fail to pay their ordered child support, but there are times where there are valid reasons for it. A parent who is having difficulty making the required payments because of a material change in finances may want to meet with an attorney for help with filing a motion to modify the order. While the motion is pending, the child support payments need to continue to be paid as previously ordered until and unless the court grants the modification and issues a new order.