Social Security Benefits and Child Support 

What happens when a person has a child support obligation and they are receiving Social Security benefits?  Does it count as income for child support?  Does it reduce the amount of child support I have to pay?

Let’s look at some of those questions.

How are Social Security benefits treated when calculating child support? 

In Arizona, Social Security Retirement benefits and Social Security Disability Income is counted as income when determining the amount of child support a parent may be ordered to pay. Supplemental Security Income is not counted as income.

Can my Child Support payment be withheld from my Social Security benefits? 

Yes they can.

Under Federal Law, Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407) protects social security benefits from assignment levy, or garnishment.  However, the law provides five exceptions.  The first one (shown below) deals with child support.

Section 459 of the Act (42 U.S.C. 659) allows Socials Security benefits to be garnished to enforce child support and/or alimony obligations.

I’m paying child support, and my child is receiving Social Security benefits based on my disability or retirement.  Does that reduce the amount of child support I have to pay? 

In some cases it does reduce the amount of your child support payment.  The “Arizona Child Support Guidelines” adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2005 address this.  

“Benefits such as Social Security, Disability, and Insurance received by a custodial parent on behalf of a child as a result of contribution made by the parent paying child support shall be credited as follows:


  • If the amount of the child’s benefit for a given month is equal to or greater than the paying parent’s child support obligation, then that parent’s obligation is satisfied.
  • Any benefit received by the child for a given month in excess of the child support obligation shall not be treated as an arrearage payment nor as a credit toward future child support payment.
  •  If the amount of the child’s benefit for a given month is less than the parent’s child support obligation, the parent shall pay the difference unless the court, in it’s discretion, modifies the child support order to equal the benefits being received at that time.

If the noncustodial parent is receiving Social Security benefits can my child(ren) receive benefits? 

If a parent is receiving Social Security benefits, a dependent child may qualify to receive benefits as well.  An eligible child can be a biological child, adopted child, or stepchild.  A dependent grandchild may qualify as well.

If you believe you have a child who is eligible you should contact your local Social Security office, or visit Social Security OnlineExternal Link Icon.

I’m a custodial parent and my child is receiving Social Security benefits based on my disability or retirement.  Does that count as income or reduce the amount of support they’re supposed to receive from the noncustodial parent? 

No, it doesn’t.

If a child receives income or money from any source other than court-ordered child support, it does not count as income for either parent when determining child support.

Remember though, if the child is receiving benefits based on the noncustodial parents disability or retirement, it may in some cases reduce the amount of money the noncustodial parent is required to pay.

You can view the online Arizona Child Support GuidelinesExternal Link Icon.

To locate the Guidelines enter either of the following phrases in the search feature, Arizona Child Support Guidelines or Child Support Calculator.

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