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Collecting back child support by garnishment

As divorced parents in New York who have custody of their children may know, it is sometimes difficult to collect overdue child support payments from the non-custodial parent. If the parent who owes the support is not employed, some options might be available to enforce the payment of those delinquent amounts.

One available option is the garnishment of the parent's federal or state income tax refund. Another possibility is the garnishment of certain Social Security benefits that are being paid to the non-custodial parent. In general, amounts that are received by an individual that are considered income may be garnished. Refunds from overpayment of taxes are considered income because the amounts were paid directly by the individual, while retirement and disability benefits received from Social Security are considered income because the recipient paid into the system over a long period. However, Supplemental Security Income does not qualify for garnishment because it is considered a form of welfare assistance.

The procedure a parent needs to follow with regard to overdue child support payments is to first obtain a court payment withholding order. It will be necessary to show proof that the original child support order is not being complied with. Once the order has been issued, a copy should be taken to the local Social Security Administration office. By law, no more than 65 percent of eligible benefits can be withheld.

Although many parents who are required to pay child support simply ignore their obligation, others are unable to meet it because of an adverse change in their financial circumstances that has occurred after the original order was issued. In such an event, it is possible to petition the court for a modification of the order with the assistance of a family law attorney. Even if one is obtained, however, it is important to know that the modification will have no effect on amounts that were delinquent at the time it is granted. Those amounts will continue to be owed in full.

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