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How Social Security Benefits Can Impact Child Support


Understanding how child support is calculated, and the specific types of income and expenses that are considered when determining how much a parent may owe, is critical to figuring out how to meet this obligation. Paying child support is not optional, and the child is the one primarily affected when this support is absent. One source of financial support that can be tricky to understand in the context of child support is Social Security benefits. Payments from the federal government from the Social Security Administration (SSA) are typically associated with retirement, and would rarely affect a parent responsible for supporting a minor. However, there are other benefit programs under the SSA’s umbrella that can have an impact on the amount of child support that must be paid, depending upon who is receiving the benefit (the child or payor parent), and from which Social Security benefit program a recipient is drawing. Given the importance of child support to a child’s wellbeing, and how frequently this issue can spark disagreement between parents, the more known about the child support formula, the less confused and combative parents can be over this issue. Those receiving Social Security benefits especially need to understand how the law views this support, since it typically means the recipient has limited resources. To that end, a discussion of interplay between Social Security benefits and child support will follow below.

What Is Generally Used to Calculate Child Support?

In order to make child support more streamlined and predictable, Florida law has a formula that is used to calculate the amount of monthly support that must be provided. While both parents are expected to contribute towards the child’s needs, the parent with less frequent childcare duties is typically expected to pay the other support, to account for the additional responsibility and cost. The following is an outline of the information generally used to determine the monthly amount:

  • The income of both parents;
  • The number of children;
  • The cost of daycare, if applicable; and
  • The cost of healthcare insurance for the children.

How Does Social Security Fit In?

If Social Security benefits were to fit anywhere, it would be under income, but this money is often treated differently, as it is frequently intended to provide a basic level of subsistence, when other income sources are insufficient. Consequently, it is first necessary to analyze which Social Security program is providing the income, i.e., whether it is paid as Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Further, who is receiving the money – the obligated parent or the child? Eligibility for SSI is based upon a person’s income, meaning it is provided to those with inadequate financial means. Thus, it is not counted as income. SSDI, though, is considered a source of income, and will be included in child support calculations, because it is paid according to contributions made into the Social Security system during the time the parent was able to work. One additional complication related to SSDI is the fact that it will also pay an extra benefit to the children of disabled workers. Following previous court decisions, this dependent benefit should be counted as income for the payor, but also credited against the amount the parent actually needs to pay. If the dependent benefits do not cover the entire amount the payor parent must pay, he/she is obligated to pay the difference.

Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney

Child support is a critically important issue for both parents, and if you have questions about this obligation, talk to the knowledgeable attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. Any time money is involved, the potential exists for dispute, and it is important to know your rights. Our Fort Lauderdale law firm understands your concerns, and can provide the guidance you need to fully protect your interests. Contact us for a free consultation.



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