Garnishing Social Security Checks To Pay Back Child Support

divorce lawyer Daniel ExnerQuestion:

I owe back child support payments due to an arrearage building up when my children were younger and I was unable to pay.

Recently, the child support agency has notified me of my outstanding balance for past child support obligations, even though my children are in their 40s now.

Since I am now retired, can the state intercept and garnish my social security payments for purposes of paying off my child support arrears?


Since I am only licensed to practice law in Wisconsin, I can only provide you with general divorce help for men to your divorce question.

Child support and maintenance (alimony) obligations are one of the few debts that are not dischargeable under the bankruptcy code or any other legal process.

An individual who incurs a child support or maintenance debt will remain responsible for that debt until it is satisfied in full. State governments, via their child support enforcement offices, possess the same remedies as any creditor to collect on an outstanding debt.

Generally, under Section 207 of the Social Security Act, social security benefits are exempt from attachment, levy, execution or garnishment. There are, however, two exceptions.

The Secretary of the Treasury may seize benefits to satisfy an outstanding tax obligation and either a state agency or an individual claimant may garnish benefits to satisfy an outstanding child support or maintenance obligation. See 42 U.S.C. ยง 659 and Social Security Ruling 79-4.

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Where I practice, there is a 20-year statute of limitations on child support arrearage collection that begins as soon as the child turns 18. This period may be tolled if the state attempts to collect on the arrearage.

If your state has not gone after you for collection in the past, and your children are over the age of 38, the state may be precluded from garnishing your social security benefits to pay child support.

Please keep in mind that I am unable to provide you with specific advice on divorce. If you would like more advice on divorce concerning child support laws, contact a mens divorce attorney near you.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide. To schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney, including Daniel Exner, a Staff Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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2 comments on “Garnishing Social Security Checks To Pay Back Child Support

    If there has been active attempts to collect past due child support, how does the 20 year rule apply? Does the non-paying ex-spouse then get off Scott Free after 20 years, even though they may owe over $100,00 in arrears ? How does this apply to interest that has accrued ?

    I was ordered to pay child support in WI. back in 1981. The custodial parent moved to TN. I moved to GA. Ga. and TN filed a URESA pkg, I since have paid TN. However, WI continues to this date wanting me to pay over $16,000.00 in child support. When is this going to end. I have been in contact with them all these years. Sending them every thing I have to prove it has all been paid. But they just continue to ignore my information. Now the custodial parent is deceased. They still won’t close the case!

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