Mock up of Social Security Card

What Is Income in Context of Social Security and Child Support Payments?

It is probably not surprising that the largest government benefit program in history will have a bunch of different types of payments, some to parents, some to children, which test the ability of Colorado’s child support law to address Social Security and child support payments. And the result is a hodgepodge of rules which often seem to lack consistency.

The broad definition of income for purposes of spousal maintenance (C.R.S. 14-10-114) and child support (C.R.S. 14-10-115) includes pretty much all payments a person receives, whether taxable or non-taxable. Except when it doesn’t – means-tested payments are excluded from the definition of income, which means Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count.

Income? Social Security and Child Support Payments

Social Security and child support paymentsSocial Security and child support payments

But Social Security, and Social Security Disability (SSD) payments do count as income for purposes of child support – as long as they are payments legally owing to the parent. If the payments are technically owing to the child, they count as income to the child, even if the parent is the one actually receiving and spending the money as the child’s representative payee.

And payments to the child are beneficial to the parent for alimony purposes, since they do not count as income. But they are bad in terms of child support, because Social Security payments to a child have a much larger impact on child support than the same amount of money being treated as income to a parent.

At a divorce, or even at a post-dissolution hearing on child support or maintenance, understanding how to address Social Security and child support payments is a necessary evil. So Graham.Law is proud to announce the first expansion of the Colorado Family Law Guide since it was completely overhauled last month – an all-new article with the catchy title Social Security, Alimony & Child Support for everything you ever wanted to know about when to count Social Security payments as income, and when not to count them. You’ll probably be sorry you asked about Social Security and child support payments.

Garnish Social Security for Child Support

Pursuant to 10 U.S. Code § 659, a retiree’s SS payments can be garnished for child support or alimony. See the SSA’s Program Operations Manual (POM) for details on its implementation.

Pursuant to 15 U.S. Code § 1673, the maximum garnishment percentages are:

  • 50% of disposable earnings, if the retiree is supporting another child or spouse, or
  • 60% of disposable earnings, if the retiree is not supporting another child or spouse.

Disposable earnings, for purposes of Social Security garnishment, is defined as: “the earnings of any individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amounts required by law to be withheld.” 15 U.S. Code § 1672(b).

Social Security is not Divisible Property at Divorce

Since we’re on the subject, we should point out that Social Security is not an asset that can be divided at divorce, but it is an economic circumstance that courts can consider when fashioning an equitable division of the marital estate. And family law judges cannot order a spouse to name the other as Social Security payee.

FAQ On Social Security and Child Support Payments

Is Social Security considered income for child support?

Yes. Under Colorado law, almost all payments to a parent will count as income for purposes of child support, including Social Security and Social Security Disability payments.

Can Social Security be garnished for child support payments?

Yes. Pursuant to 10 U.S. Code § 659, Social Security payments are subject to garnishment for both child support and alimony payments, up to a maximum of 50% if the retiree is supporting another child or spouse, or 60%.

Award-Winning Colorado Springs Child Support Law Firm

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U.S. News & World Report calls Graham.Law one of the Best Law Firms in America, and our managing partner is a Colorado Super Lawyer. Our family law attorneys have years of experience helping clients navigate the Colorado legal system. We know Colorado divorce & family law inside and out, from complex multi-million dollar property or child custody cases to basic child support modifications.

For more information about our top-rated El Paso County family law firm, contact us by filling out our contact form, calling us at (719) 630-1123 to set up a free consult, or click on:

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