Q & A ON SOCIAL SECURITY’S INTERACTION WITH CHILD SUPPORT

June 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Q:  Father’s child support obligation is $300 a month, and the child begins receiving $250 a month from social security due to the father’s disability.  What is the effect of  social security on the father’s obligation?

A:  The father is entitled to a credit up to the amount of his support obligation.  Mooneyham v. Mooneyham, 420 So.2d 1072, 1074 (Miss. 1982). In this case, since the social security benefit is less than the support obligation, the father will receive credit for the $250 social security payment and will owe the $50 monthly difference.  

Q:  Father’s child support obligation is $300 a month, and the child begins receiving $350 from social security due to the father’s disability.  What is the effect of social security on the father’s obligation?

A:  The father is entitled to a credit up to the amount of his support obligation, and any amount in excess is a gratuity to the child.  Mooneyham at 1074. 

Q:  Father’s child support obligation is $300 a month, and the child begins receiving $350 from supplemental security income (SSI) due to the child’s disability.  What is the effect of the SSI on the father’s obligation?

A:  None. Receipt by the child of SSI payments does not reduce the parental support obligation. Hammett v. Woods, 602 So.2d 825, 828 (Miss. 1992). The same result should apply to any form of benefit received by the child that is generated by the the child or someone other than the child-support-obligated parent.

An interesting twist on this principle appeared in the case of Bradley v. Holmes, 561 So.2d 1034 (Miss. 1990). The father began receiving social security and requested the mother to file for the child to receive benefits on his account. The mother instead filed for and received benefits for the child through the child’s step-father’s account because the benefits were higher. The father petitoned the court to eliminate his child support payments because the mother could have used his account to pay the support, but she elected to use another’s entitlement.  The supreme court agreed an held that the father’s obligation was extinguished because the step-father-derived benefits exceeded the amount of the father’s child support obligation.  

Q:  Father has an arrearage in child support in the sum of $2,000 that accrued after his disability date, and the child receives a lump-sum payment from social security based on the father’s disability.  What is the effect of the lump sum payment on the father’s obligation?

AChapman v. Ward, 3 So.3d 790, 799 (Miss. App. 2009), and Keith v. Purvis, 982 So.2d 1033, 1038 (Miss. App. 2008), addressed this issue. Read in combination, they appear to hold that the father may have no credit, but the legislature might have altered that rule. Here is what the legislative drafting office provided us at the Judges’ Spring Conference about an amendment to MCA § 93-11-71, to take effect July 1, 2011: “Section 93-11-71 is further amended to provide that the parent who is in arrears on child support payments and who receives Social Security Disability insurance benefits for the support of that child or children will receive credit on the arrearage if it accrued after the date of the disability.”  Rooting that principle out of the chapter laws, or even the express language upon which the statement might be based, has been an insuperable challenge for me so far, so I will withhold a categorical statement as to what the new law might provide, so I will withhold jumping in until I receive my advance sheets. In the meantime, if you have this issue come up after July 1, I urge you to do your own research to protect your client’s interests.

Q:  Father has an arrearage in child support in the sum of $2,000 that accrued before his disability date, and the child receives a lump-sum payment from social security based on father’s disability.  What is the effect of the lump sum payment on the father’s obligation?

A:  It would appear both from the case law and the revised statute that the father has no protection or relief in this circumstance.

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