How Disability Benefits Can Affect Child Support Payments

Disability Benefits

When it comes to disability benefits and child support payments, there is a lot of confusion. How does one affect the other? Whether you pay child support or receive it, you may be wondering how applying for disability benefits could impact your household’s bottom line. You are smart to ask questions about this issue. These two types of income don’t always play nicely together.

Read on for the answers to some common questions regarding this topic.

Top 4 Questions About Disability Benefits & Child Support Payments

Question: “If I owe back child support, can the government garnish my disability benefits?”

Answer: Yes. Whether it’s SSDI or SSI, the court can garnish your benefits for any back child support payments you owe. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a government program that helps disabled people with the lowest income. While SSI isn’t garnished for outstanding taxes and debts, the court can garnish it for child support non-payments. For this reason, it’s important not to fall behind on your child support payments.

However, it’s important to note they use your current income to calculate how much child support you owe. If that goes down (because disability benefits are usually less than wages you earn while working), you may be able to modify your child support agreement. If so, it should lower your child support payments going forward.

Question: “I have a disabled child who qualifies for SSI benefits. Will my support payments change the amount my kid gets?”

Answer: Yes. This is a very complicated issue, but for every child support dollar you get, they reduce your child’s SSI the same amount. When the court orders any SSI beneficiary’s parent to pay child support, those payments can end the child’s access to government benefits.

Why is this? Well, the Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies a big part of a child support payment as unearned income while calculating SSI benefits. If the amount of unearned income is greater than the entire SSI benefit (for example, when someone has a $500 monthly SSI benefit and she receives $600 in child support payments), the beneficiary loses SSI — and possibly Medicaid.

Opening an ABLE account in your child’s name can help overcome this issue. Eligibility for public benefits like SSI depends on your total financial resources and monthly income falling below a certain level. In other words, a family must remain poor to qualify for and keep getting SSI. The ABLE Act recognizes the significant costs of living with a disability and lets you put money into savings without losing your SSI benefits.

The ABLE Act limits eligibility to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years old. If your child meets this age criteria and qualifies for SSI, you are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account.

Question: “I’m getting child support and just applied for disability benefits because I cannot keep working. Will that income count against me?”

Answer: It depends on whether you’re approved, but the answer may be “yes.” If you receive less than $1,260/month, you’re probably fine. But if it’s more than that, you won’t qualify for SSI since the SSA counts child support payments as “unearned income.” If it’s more than $1,260, you won’t qualify for SSDI.

Question: “I recently became disabled and qualified for SSD benefits. Does that mean I can stop paying child support?”

Answer: No, it does not. But you may be able to modify your agreement and pay less each month in child support payments than you do now. Since state law governs such arrangements, you’ll need to talk to a lawyer about updating that before changing your monthly child support payments.

Child support payments are one of the few reasons your benefits can be garnished. Since this is a complicated issue that changes on a state-by-state basis, we recommend consulting a lawyer. A lawyer won’t charge anything to give you confidential advice over the phone. And if you need help filing your claim or appealing your denial, all Social Security lawyers work on contingency. That means you’ll never pay anything for professional help unless you win benefits. And if a lawyer does help you win benefits, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free disability benefits evaluation now.

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Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and