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Accessing Social Security benefits for child support

A custodial parent in Missouri looking to collect unpaid child support may be able to garnish a percentage of his or her spouse's Social Security benefits. This rule does not apply to Supplemental Security Income benefits, which are considered a form of welfare and are not subject to child support garnishment. However, all other types of earned Social Security, including retirement, disability and survivor benefits, are fair game.

The Social Security Administration requires that a judge issue an income withholding order, which means that the parent seeking to collect needs to go to court and prove that the spouse has failed to meet child support obligations. If the children are still minors, the parent can receive state support for the legal process; otherwise, if the goal is to collect back payments, the parent will need to retain a private attorney.

Once the judge's order is issued, the local Social Security office will record the case in its database and begin withholding child support. If the non-paying spouse is not currently receiving benefits, the garnishment order remains on file until he or she begins collecting again. According to federal law, Social Security may only withhold up to 65 percent of a spouse's benefit, depending on the spouse's own needs. Other potential sources of funding include a spouse's bank accounts and federal and state income tax refunds.

Depending on the age and status of the children, a parent seeking to recover unpaid child support in Missouri may require the services of a family law attorney. With experience in this area of law and with extensive knowledge of state statutes regarding divorce and child support agreements, an attorney can help a custodial parent receive the funds to which they are entitled.

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