You may have some mixed emotions if you are a custodial parent receiving child support from the other parent, and you hear that your ex has become so disabled they are no longer able to work at a regular job. Even though you may be sad about the news, you may also be concerned about your children's welfare. If you are relying on child support to help care of the children's basic needs, it is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in this situation.
Modifications to Child Support Payments
A person who has become disabled does not get a free pass to quit paying child support. They are still required to make the payments as ordered by the court, and they must go back to court to get the amount lowered if needed. Depending on the state you live in, the judge will look at the disabled person's current income, and may also consider yours at the same time. If there is a significant decrease in your ex's income, the child support may be modified to reflect this.
Sources of Income for Disabled
A newly disabled person may start receiving income and assistance in the following ways:
- From long term disability (LTD) insurance payments through their employer.
- From social security disability income (SSDI) payments.
- From an insurance settlement due to a personal injury or worker's compensation claim.
- Through Federal and state welfare programs.
A judge will count LTD and SSDI payments as income when considering a modification petition since these types of income have been made possible due to an employed (or self-employed) person's benefits or earning record.
However, if your ex has been approved to receive SSDI payments, then any of their minor dependents would also be eligible for auxiliary benefits through the Social Security Administration. In this case, you would receive payments directly from the government to use in behalf of the children, but your ex's child support requirement can be modified to reflect this.
If your ex receives a settlement due to a personal injury or worker's comp claim, this will also be considered income, but assistance from federal, state welfare programs and SSI (supplemental security income) are not considered income and would not be used when determining child support or modification.
Ways to Collect
If your ex applies for SSDI payments, they should also include their dependents as part of their claim. If approved, you will start receiving the auxiliary payments directly from the SSA to use for their benefit and you may receive a percentage of your ex's SSDI monthly payments also, especially if they owe a significant amount in child support. If you have been receiving any sort of state assistance for the children such as SNAP benefits or Medicaid, the state will likely be involved in helping you get your child support payments and back payments.
If you haven't been receiving any public assistance, you may need to consult with an attorney from a place like Garrett & Silvey Law Firm for help to get a judgment against your former spouse for back support and to enforce the court ordered payments. The judge could order a percentage of any worker's comp or personal injury claims be paid to you.