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How does disability insurance with child support work?

You’ll have to keep paying child support – but the amount could be less.

Child support can be one of your largest monthly payments, and being out of work for a disability can make it difficult to make child support payments. If you receive disability insurance, whether privately or through the Social Security Administration, you’re still required to make child support payments. But you might be eligible to temporarily lower your payment amount.

Do I have to continue paying child support while I’m on disability benefits?

You have to pay child support even if you experience a disability and can’t work. Almost every state requires parents to pay child support regardless of the circumstances, except when parental rights are terminated.

When you experience a disability, your financial situation can change considerably. So while the court still requires you to pay child support, it considers your disability and affected income, and may reduce your monthly payment amount to reflect your situation.

What if I’m on Social Security Disability Income Insurance (SSDI)?

Being on SSDI means that you’re working with a tight budget. However, the courts will continue to order you to pay child support.

You may have your monthly contribution lowered to reflect your SSDI income once you’re already on SSDI. But if you’re delinquent on past payments, you’ll still owe the full amount for any late payments you were supposed to make.

And if you’re unable to pay your child support obligation, your SSDI income can be garnished.

What if I’m on Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Since your SSI payment might be your only source of income, this money can’t be garnished to pay for child support.

However, you’ll likely still be ordered to meet child support obligations. If you can’t pay, your payments accumulate and your wages will be garnished if you become healthy and can work again.

How much child support will I have to pay during a disability?

Each state has slightly different laws and methods of calculating your child support payment. The court looks at all your income sources, then determines how much of your income goes to child support.

Your situation depends on your other income and the state you live in, but generally, child support payments are calculated at between 18% to 45% of your gross income.

Most types of disability payments are considered income, though your state could deduct disability income as a source of income when it calculates your child support payment.

Can the court garnish disability benefits for child support?

Yes, the courts can garnish disability benefits for child support if you fall behind on your payments, as long as you still have parental rights. The courts can take away your disability payments to pay your child support, and it can also take future earnings until all of your child support obligations are met.

Can I modify my child support payments while I’m disabled?

Yes, you’ll likely have your child support payments modified if you experience a disability and can’t work. This is because the courts base your child support payment on your income and income is often significantly reduced after a disability. If you want to try to modify your child support payment, you have a couple of options.

  • Negotiate with the other parent. If you have a good relationship with the other parent, you could reach an agreement to lower your monthly payment while you’re on disability. This option allows the greatest flexibility, but you’ll have to be in agreement.

    You’ll also want to get your new agreement in writing, ideally in a contract drafted by an attorney and signed by both parties. Otherwise, the court might not honor the agreement.

  • Request a child support modification. You can also request a modification from the court. The court looks at your income and ability to pay child support. This process can take longer than negotiating with the other parent, and you need to keep paying your existing child support amount until the court can modify it. The court may or may not reach a new agreement while you’re still on disability.

Does my child qualify for dependents benefits?

Your child may qualify to receive benefits if you’re receiving SSDI payments. The amount for each child is generally up to 50% of your disability benefits, but there’s also a cap if you have multiple children that can’t exceed 180% of your total benefit.

To qualify, your child will need to be unmarried and:

  • Under the age of 18
  • 18 to 19 years old and still a full-time student in high school
  • 18 or older with a disability that started no later than age 22

Bottom line

Though you’ll likely need to keep paying child support even if you experience a disability that reduces your income, you may be able to lower your payment amount. Child support laws vary by state, and a family law attorney can help you understand the nuances of your situation.

You can compare private disability insurance options to find the best policy to support you and your family regardless of your circumstances.

Common questions about disability and child support

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Andrew Flueckiger is a licensed insurance agent and Certified Insurance Counselor with experience in insurance and finance. A graduate of Indiana University, Andrew contributes a wealth of knowledge and experience to Finder. When Andrew isn’t writing, reading or practicing insurance, he can be found spending time with his family and playing the guitar. See full bio

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