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Social Security Disability and Child Support

NOTICE: I received so many comments and questions about the issues of child support and Social Security disability that I set up a separate blog about this topic –  Please visit this new blog to post comments and ask questions.


Can you SSDI benefits be seized to pay past due child support?  Yes, according to Social Security Ruling 79-4, the Social Security Administration can withhold a percentage of a claimant’s benefits in an amount equal to what SSA could withhold to pay delinquent income tax debt.

No interest or penalties may be withheld, and before the first withholding may commence, SSA must give the claimant 60 days notice.

There is a question in my mind as to whether SSI benefits may be seized to pay delinquent child support.  The web site states that a “custodial parent has no right to any of the proceeds from SSI.”    Tim Moore, the editor of also states that SSI recipients will not have their monthly disability benefits and past due benefits seize.  According to Mr. Moore, the rationale to protect SSI from levy relates to the nature of SSI as a welfare benefit:  “since SSI is essentially a public welfare benefit and does not derive  not from a claimant’s earnings record, SSI benefits cannot be taken for other purposes, just as food stamps and AFDC funds, likewise, cannot be seized.” Continue reading →

Will Child be Eligible for Dependent’s Benefits When “Out of the Picture” Father is Approved

I get a lot of questions from mothers who are caring for the children of fathers who are out of the picture.  Susan’s situation is a fairly common one so I will answer it here:

My 11 year old daughter’s father has just been approved for disability. I’m not sure if it is SSI or SSD. He applied 16 months ago, he is now over $4000 behind on child support. Will she be entitled to any of the back pay he will receive? How do I go about applying to see if she is eligible to draw a check off of him now that he is on disability?

***Editor’s Note:  Due to the large number of questions I receive about child support and Social Security disability, I have set up a blog specifically about that topic – please visit my Child Support and Social Security Disability blog**

Jonathan’s response: Auxiliary benefits are payable to the child of an SSDI claimant if:

A.  An application for child’s insurance benefits is filed;
B.  The child is (or was) dependent upon the parent (see below);
C.  The child is not married;
D.  The child meets any of the following conditions:

  1. is under age 18;
  2. is age 18-19 and a full-time elementary or secondary school student; or
  3. Is age 18 or older and under a disability (which must have begun before age 22) ; and

E.  The parent meets any of the following conditions:

  1. Is entitled to disability insurance benefits;
  2. Is entitled to retirement insurance benefits;
  3. Died and was either fully or currently insured at the time of death.

A child is presumed “dependent” upon the worker if
A.  The child has not been legally adopted by someone other than the worker during the worker’s lifetime; and
B.  The child is one of the following:

  1. The legitimate child of the worker;
  2. A child born out of wedlock who would have the right under applicable State law to inherit intestate property from the worker as a child;
  3. The child of a void or voidable marriage;
  4. The child of an invalid ceremonial marriage;

In Susan’s case, she needs to find out if her child’s father has been approved for SSDI or SSI.  If he is receiving SSI only, the child will not be eligible for auxiliary benefits.  If the father is drawing SSDI, then the child would be eligible assuming she is a dependent.  Susan would need to file an application for benefits on behalf of her daughter.  Note that the child’s auxiliary benefits are in addition to the disabled father’s benefit and do not reduce his monthly check.

With regard to past due child support, Susan may be able to garnish the back pay or on-going SSDI benefits of the father if he is delinquent in his child support.  I would suggest that Susan speak with her domestic relations lawyer if she has one, or with her case worker at the child support enforcement office to discuss the procedures for seizing this money.