SSI is the typical abbreviation for Supplemental Security Income. SSI is part of the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s programs, and is one of the types of Social Security incomes they provide. Contrasted with retirement benefits or disability benefits, SSI is for low-income individuals who are either over 65 years old, blind, or disabled.
Because SSI is considered a government welfare payment, these wages are not considered part of child support plans. In fact, these wages may be protected from wage garnishment. If you are seeking child support enforcement or paying child support, talking to an attorney may help you understand your options, especially when parties receive complicated sources of income. For a free consultation on your Pennsylvania child support, talk to the Philadelphia child support lawyers at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices today.
Garnishing Social Security Payments in Philadelphia
If someone has been ordered to pay child support, and is severely behind on those payments, courts may “garnish” their wages. This requires a court order, so someone seeking child support payments must go to court and ask the judge to order the payor’s wages garnished. This is one of the many powers courts have to enforce child support payments, but is technically not a punishment for non-payment.
Wage garnishment can take nearly any income the payor receives, and take a portion of it to pay off back child support. However, Pennsylvania law and federal law puts limits on what percentage of income can be garnished. The maximum the federal government allows for garnishment is 65% of your monthly wages. PA law allows this only in situations where you are not supporting another family and are more than 12 weeks behind on payments. If you are not 12 weeks behind, this is reduced to only 60%. If you do support another family, this is reduced to 50% (or 55% if you are 12 weeks behind and support another family).
Many forms of income may be included in this wage garnishment. Courts can order your employer or your bank to withhold money from you, and each institution must comply with these orders. That means that if you are self-employed, your bank will still take the garnished wages. If you receive other payments, such as from a retirement account, Social Security retirement income, or other sources, the court can still reach these payments. By ordering the institution that makes these payments to withhold money, such as the SSA, the court can successfully garnish nearly any income.
Limits on Wage Garnishment and Child Support in PA
Under federal law, SSI is excluded from the types of money courts can garnish. No matter what state you’re in, SSI is paid by the federal government and is subject to federal laws. Because SSI is only given on an as-needed basis, federal law protects these funds from garnishment.
Supplemental Security Income is only awarded to those who really need it. This usually includes people over the age of 65, people who are blind, or people who are disabled. The federal government decides that these people would, without SSI, be too poor to provide for themselves. This usually means these individuals are unable to support themselves without SSI. If SSI recipients are not able to support themselves, it is unlikely they can also afford to support children through child support payments.
Another consideration for parents on SSI payments, is that child support orders may not be appropriate if you do not have income. Courts are permitted to order parents to make child support payments, but they will usually base these child support amounts on reasonable income levels. If the parent has no income and must rely on SSI or other welfare programs, there may be no money to collect for child support.
PA Child Support Programs
If the other parent of your shared children is receiving SSI, you may need alternative sources of child support. When the other parent is unable to afford their own support, courts may refuse to order them to pay child support as well. In that case, you may need to apply for other welfare programs or state-funded child support. Even if there is a child support order in place, it may be difficult for courts to enforce the order if there is no income to garnish.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services may offer supplemental programs for those who fall below poverty levels and are unable to support their families. These assistance programs may have difficult applications, but an attorney may be able to help point you in the right direction and help with filing.
PA Child Support Lawyers
The Philadelphia family law attorneys at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices represent payors and recipients of child support throughout Philadelphia, Bucks County, Delaware County, and beyond. For a free consultation on your child support case, or to file to get child support orders changed in PA, call our lawyers today. Our number is 215-814-0395.