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Child support and Social Security have a complex relationship: Social Security payments can affect child support and vice versa. For any family whose financial situation involves both sources of income, it is imperative to understand the applicable Arizona law.

Calculation of Child Support

Although many factors are considered by courts when determining child support, income is one of the most important. Most forms of Social Security payments do qualify as income, including retirement and disability payments. But, Supplemental Security Income, a public assistance program, does not qualify as income.

Since the income of both parents is qualified when determining child support, a custodial parent’s qualifying Social Security benefits could result in lower child support payments, while a noncustodial parent with Social Security benefits may have to increase his or her child support contributions.

Withholding, and Benefits on a Child’s Behalf

Generally, due child support obligations can be withheld from Social Security benefits.

In some instances, Social Security benefits are paid directly to the custodial parent on behalf of a child, as a result of contributions to the Social Security system made by the parent who owes support. When this happens, the paying parent’s child support obligation is reduced by the amount the custodial parent receives, up to the full amount. However, any Social Security benefits paid in excess of child support obligations in a given month are not credited to the paying parent; they simply fulfill that month’s obligations and represent a surplus to the child.

When either of a child’s parent’s, custodial or otherwise, is receiving Social Security benefits, the child may be eligible for Social Security benefits of his or her own. However, even if a child receives payments based on a custodial parent’s retirement or disability, this does not in any way affect the support obligations of the noncustodial parent or change the income of either parent.

Getting Help

If both child support and Social Security benefits are part of your familial situation, you should take steps to ensure this complicated relationship is properly reflected in your support arrangement. If you have questions about the ways in which social security affects child support and vice versa, please contact an experienced family law attorney.


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