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Can your Social Security be garnished for unpaid child support?

Yes, your Social Security benefits can be garnished to satisfy unpaid child support obligations. Yes, the government can garnish either retirement or disability benefits. The federal government doesn't allow most lenders to pursue Social Security, however, it passed special exceptions for child and spousal support obligations. This post will go over when and how your benefits can get garnished.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the entity that garnishes your benefits. The SSA will only garnish benefits after it has been served with a court order. To get an order, you request a hearing, present evidence at the hearing that your ex-partner failed to make payments, and request the court enter in a garnishment order. You can then send a copy of that order to the SSA.

At this point, the SSA may withhold up to 65 percent of benefits. But a new review system instituted by the Treasury Department requires states to monitor bank accounts, to identify assets owned by people who owe child support. Once identified, the state may seize the account. Under this system, you can lose up to 100 percent of your benefits.

If you failed to pay child support and are being subject to penalties for delinquent payments, you may want to contact an attorney. Most people don't avoid helping their children purposefully. Sometimes you fall on hard times, lose a job, or a business deal falls through, and you fall behind – it happens. What is important is that you don't allow those delinquent payments to push you further into debt, a lawyer can help ensure that you are placed on a reasonable payment plan. The last thing you or your child needs is for you to become insolvent because you are drowning in child support arrears.