If your child’s other parent receives Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), your child should receive an auxiliary benefit from Social Security. The auxiliary benefit may not cover monthly child support due you. The disabled parent may owe past due child support. Your former spouse may owe you alimony. You can collect these obligations by income assignment paid directly from the obligor’s disability benefit.
As a general rule, SSDI payments are exempt from garnishment, attachment or other legal process. This is called an anti-assignment provision. It protects persons on disability from most creditors. But by federal law, the anti-assignment provision does not apply to collection of child support or support alimony. The government does not want parents or former spouses who can pay to allow their exes or children to become public charges.
Each state has a process for withholding up to 65% of a person’s disability income for the payment of child support or support alimony. In Oklahoma, the income withholding notice/order must be signed by a judge or hearing officer. The income assignment must then be filed and served on the office manager at any Social Security District or Branch Office. The addresses and telephone numbers of Social Security District and Branch Offices may be found in the local telephone directory. The income assignment proceeds will be paid to you through your state’s support registry.
It is important to know what type of benefit the disabled parent or former spouse receives. There are two types of Social Security benefits. The first type consists of old-age and disability insurance benefits (SSDI). The second type of Social Security benefit is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI benefits are designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
SSDI benefits are funded by Social Security taxes. SSI benefits are funded by general tax revenues. Social Security Disability is considered a substitute for income. SSI is considered a supplement to income based on need. Because of the different purposes of the two types of Social Security, and the different ways the two benefits are funded, SSDI benefits are subject to income withholding, but SSI benefits are not.
By David A. Tracy
42 U.S.C. §407 – Anti-assignment provision for SSDI benefits
42 U.S.C. §659 – Exception for child support and support alimony
42 U.S.C. §666 – Order to withhold income for support shall be provided under state law
Social Security Ruling 79-4 – authorizing collection of child support and alimony from disability income
SSA’s Program Operations Manual System, Section GN02410.200 – Notes SSI payments not subject to garnishment or income withholding
5 CFR Part 581 – Processing Garnishment Orders For Child Support And/Or Alimony