Do Child Support Calculations Consider Social Security Benefits

child support social securityQuestion:

If the needs of the child are determined to be $850 per month and the child is drawing $900 per month in Social Security, is the Social Security typically applied to the needs of the child such that no additional support is needed?


I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce. I can give general divorce help for men, though, my knowledge is based on Michigan divorce laws where I am licensed to practice.

Where I practice, the Michigan Child Support Formula does account for circumstances in which one parent or both receive(s) Social Security Retirement, Survivor’s of Disability benefits for the child.

In general, the benefits are treated as a credit against what the parent’s child support obligation would have been. In other words, the benefits do not replace the parent’s obligation to support the child but could reduce that parent’s obligation in the overall calculation of child support between the two parents.

With compelling facts, the benefits may actually exceed the support obligation or justify a deviation from the child support calculation, as well, though one would want to discuss these options thoroughly with an attorney before requesting a modification or deviation from the court.

Take, for example, the following explanations from the Friend of the Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals, respectively:

The Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF) Manual provides for a credit where the child receives SSDI benefits based on the support payer’s disability:

3.07(A) Credit Social Security Retirement, Survivor’s, or Disability Insurance benefits paid for the children based on the support payer’s earnings record against that parent’s support obligation as follows:

(1) Determine the total child support obligation.

(2) Determine the monthly benefit amount that is attributable to the payer and that the support recipient receives for the children and then subtract that amount from the total child support obligation.

(a) If the children’s payer-based benefit exceeds the total support amount, then no additional support amount should be ordered.

(b) If the children’s payer-based benefits are less than the payer’s total support amount, then the difference between the benefits received for the children and the total support amount becomes the ordered obligation.

The following case discusses how Social Security benefits affect support obligations: Jenerou v. Jenerou, 200 Mich App 265, 267; 503 NW2d 744 (1993):

“We are satisfied that a parent should not get credit against a child support arrearage merely because the child receives benefits from the federal government. The child does not receive the benefits because the federal government has decided to assume the parent’s obligation to support the child, but only because the child is determined to be eligible for the benefits under federal law. See 42 USC 402(d). We believe that benefits paid to the child should be treated like any other change in circumstance, which might warrant a modification in the support order. Because social security disability benefits paid to the child can be considered by the court when determining the proper amount of support, see Michigan Support Guideline Manual (1989 rev), p 4, we are satisfied that disability benefits could also furnish adequate justification for modifying support orders in appropriate cases.”

You state that the child receives $900 monthly. It is unclear based on which parent’s earnings history (which would affect the credit calculation, above) and whether this amount exceeds a support obligation.

If no other circumstances for parenting time, health care or income have changed, then it may be helpful to contact a Friend of the Court caseworker for an administrative review of child support to account for the $900 in benefits. The caseworker may direct you to file a motion if an administrative review has occurred within the last three years, however.

One must use caution here, moreover, because other circumstances may have occurred that would increase, rather than decrease, the support obligation.

Jennifer M. Paine is a Michigan Divorce Lawyer with Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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