If you’ve recently received a personal injury settlement or been approved for Social Security disability benefits, you likely have a list of expenses you plan to put the money toward. One expense some claimants have to consider is child support.
You can still receive a personal injury settlement or Social Security disability benefits if you owe child support. But the amount you owe in child support may affect the amount of money you personally receive from your settlement or benefits.
Child Support and Your Personal Injury Settlement
Every personal injury case is different. For information specific to how a settlement might affect your child support obligations, we recommend speaking with an Indiana personal injury lawyer.
In general, however, there are three common things that may affect your child support obligations: liens, lost wages, and punitive damages.
If You’re Behind on Child Support Payments
It’s common for victims of personal injury to fall behind on their child support payments. Many injured victims have to take time off of work temporarily, and some injuries prevent victims from ever returning to their jobs. Injured victims will likely have multiple medical appointments, and they may struggle to find an attorney to represent their case. All of this is time-consuming and costly, making it easy to fall behind on child support payments.
If you receive a settlement or award and are behind on child support, the state of Indiana will likely place a lien on the judgment. That means that whatever you owe back in child support will be taken from your settlement or award before you receive a final, reduced amount.
If You Receive Compensation for Lost Wages
But what if you’ve kept up with your payments throughout the duration of the personal injury claim? Your settlement still may affect what you owe in child support.
For example, your damages may include lost wages due to the time you had to take off of work after your accident. Your child support payments may be affected by this loss of income. However, if you recover those lost wages in your settlement or award, you may have to pay a portion of those wages back toward child support.
If You Receive a Significantly Large Settlement
Your child support payments may also increase if your settlement or award increases your income significantly.
It’s important to differentiate between a large settlement due to pain and suffering and a large settlement due to high medical expenses. If your settlement is high because your bills are high, your child support payments may not increase.
Child Support and Your Disability Benefits
There are a different set of questions regarding how disability benefits affect your child support payments, and vice versa. After all, if you’ve been approved for disability insurance benefits (DIB), you are not engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), which the Social Security Administration (SSA) currently values at $1310 a month for non-blind individuals ($2190 a month for the statutorily blind). Not meeting SGA typically means you’re not working.
However, your child support obligations don’t cease if you’re approved for disability benefits. You may have to petition the court to lower your child support payments if your monthly benefit is significantly less than your previous monthly income. If you’re behind on your child support payments, you cannot get that amount reduced, regardless of your monthly benefit amount.
If you’re receiving DIB, your payments can be garnished for child support payments. Garnishment means that a portion of your check is withheld and sent directly to the person or institution to which you owe money until your debts are fulfilled. A percentage of any past-due benefits you are owed may also be garnished if you owe child support. If you’re receiving supplemental security income (SSI), your payments will not be garnished.
Help from Hensley Legal Group
It’s difficult to know just how your child support obligations may be affected by a personal injury settlement or a monthly disability benefit. Every case is different. Only an attorney can truly advise you on your financial obligations after a settlement or approval.
Many people are afraid to even file a personal injury claim or apply for disability benefits if they owe child support. They may think they’re ineligible for any kind of settlement or benefit. That’s simply not the case.
If you’re considering filing a personal injury claim or applying for disability but are unsure how child support will affect your eventual settlement or approval, Hensley Legal Group can help. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.