Social Security Benefits and Child Support

Social Security Benefits and Child Support
         Social Security benefits can affect child support in two ways. First, if either the parent paying child support (the “obligor”) or the parent receiving child support (the “obligee”) receives Social Security benefits, the Arizona Child Support Guidelines require that the Social Security benefits be included in determining either parents income. Thus, the Social Security benefits help to determine the initial child support obligation.

         Second, the Social Security benefits can affect the amount of child support that must be paid out of pocket by the parent paying child support. Section 26 of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines addresses this issue and states verbatim as follows:

A. Income earned or money received by a child from any source other than court-ordered
child support shall not be counted toward either parent’s child support obligation except
as stated herein. However, income earned or money received by or on behalf of a
person for whom child support is ordered to continue past the age of majority pursuant
to Arizona Revised Statute Sections 25-320.B and 25-809.F may be credited against
any child support obligation.

B. Benefits, such as Social Security Disability or Insurance, received by a custodial parent
on behalf of a child, as a result of contributions made by the parent paying child support
shall be credited as follows:

1. If the amount of the child’s benefit for a given month is equal to or greater than the paying parent’s child support obligation, then that parent’s obligation is satisfied.

2. Any benefit received by the child for a given month in excess of the child support obligation shall not be treated as an arrearage payment nor as a credit toward future child support payments.

3. If the amount of the child’s benefit for a given month is less than the parent’s child support obligation, the parent shall pay the difference unless the court, in its discretion, modifies the child support order to equal the benefits being received at that time.

C. Except as otherwise provided in section 5.B, any benefits received directly, and not on
behalf of a child, by either the custodial parent or the parent paying child support as a
result of his or her own contributions, shall be included as part of that parent’s gross
income.

My interpretation of the above, minus some of the legalese, is really pretty simple:

A. If a child receives benefits from a source outside of the parent paying child support, it will not normally diminish the paying parent’s child support obligation unless the Arizona Child Support Guidelines provide a specific exception. However, if a mentally or physically disabled child receives child support past the age of majority, those amounts may be credited toward the paying parent’s child support obligation. Notice this is a “may” and not a “shall,” meaning that the court has discretion in this child support matter.

B. If a child receives benefits, such as social security or insurance, because the paying parent made the child eligible to receive such benefits by paying into the system, those amounts shall be credited toward the paying parent’s child support obligation in the manners described. Notice this is a “shall” and not a “may,” meaning that the court has no discretion in this child support matter.

C. As I mentioned above, a parent who receives payments directly on his or her behalf must include those amounts in income totals used to calculate child support. However, the exception to this provision is provided by the Child Support Guidelines Section 5(B) which states, “Gross income does not include sums received as child support or benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs including, but not limited to, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps and General Assistance.”

For more information, please review the Arizona Child Support Guidelines
( PDF or HTML )and/or discuss this issue with your attorney.

The Law Office of Carrie M. Wilcox

10930 N. Tatum Blvd., Ste. 100
Phoenix, Arizona 85028
Ph: 602-445-4690
Fx: 602-445-4699

 

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