Workers’ compensation benefits are paid to workers who were injured in a work-related accident or who are suffering from an occupational disease. When a worker starts receiving workers’ compensation benefits, they will receive a percentage of what they were receiving before the injury (less than what they were earning before).
When a noncustodial parent is approved for workers’ compensation benefits, their monthly income will take a hit. Since they will receive less than what they were earning before the injury, it can be difficult to keep up with their child support payments.
As a result of this predicament, it’s common for such parents to ask, “Since I’m not working, do I still have to pay child support?” and “Can my benefits be garnished for child support?”
Child support obligations of noncustodial parents
In all 50 states, parents are supposed to financially support their children whether or not they are married. Regardless if a parent is disabled, injured, sick with a disease like cancer, severely mentally ill, deployed, or incarcerated, the parent still has to support their children until they turn 18 or until the child turns 19 or graduates high school, whichever happens first. Child support may be extended if the child is disabled and cannot live alone.
If a parent can’t work because of a work-related accident or an occupational disease and they start receiving workers’ compensation benefits, the parent is still supposed to continue paying child support.
Can child support be garnished from workers’ compensation benefits? The answer is yes, child support can be taken from workers’ comp benefits.
What to do if you can't afford your child support payments
If you can’t afford your child support payments because your workers' compensation settlement is less than your regular earnings, our advice is to promptly go back to court and request a reduction in your payments, which is called a “downward modification.”
Child support is NOT retroactive, so if you do not go to court and you stop paying, it will continue accruing in accordance with the existing court order and you will owe child support arrears.
The only way to get your child support obligations reduced so it reflects your current financial circumstances is to petition the court for a modification; therefore, it’s best to do it sooner than later.