Unfortunately, falling behind on alimony payments is not an uncommon occurrence following a divorce. Sometimes it is as a result of a true financial shift, such as the loss of a job, or issues that interfere with the ability to work, but other times it happens when a former spouse is tired of making payments.
It is not widespread knowledge that Social Security benefits are subject to be garnished in the event that alimony or child support payments are not being made. Garnishments are used when a court order has been issued, and the obligations of that order are not being met. These payments are directly debited by your former spouse’s employer or other source of income.
How to Collect Alimony that is Owed
If your ex-spouse is required to pay you alimony or there is a court order for child support and you have not been receiving those payments, the first course of action is to find out why these payments are not being made.
If it is due to circumstances outside of your former spouse’s control, try to work out a plan that will temporarily reduce or suspend the alimony or child support payments, until your former spouse is back on their feet. You need to make it very clear that you are willing to take the issue back to court to receive the payments that have been ordered to you if your ex-spouse continues to be non-compliant.
If your ex-spouse has just decided that they no longer wish to meet their obligations, you should consider hiring a family law attorney to move forward with the collection process. You will need to file pleadings with the courts and ask for a judge to order that your former spouse make the payments that are overdue, and to keep up with payments that will be owed for the duration of the alimony order or child support payments.
Collecting Court Ordered Alimony
When a, ex- spouse fails to pay their court ordered alimony or child support, a judge is never happy. The court can hold the non-complying ex-spouse in contempt and impose sanctions for failure to pay. Sometimes seeking garnishment is the only way to receive those payments that are due. It is not commonly understood that social security benefits are available for garnishment should an ex-spouse decide not to make court ordered payments.
If your former spouse has not been making their payments, and is collecting social security income, the easiest way to regain access to that income is to file an income withholding order with the social security administration. This order places fifty to sixty percent of your former spouse’s social security income under garnishment to meet the obligations of the court order.
The order for garnishment of Social Security benefits works the same way as filing for garnishment of regular income wages from an employer.
Social Security Benefits Subject to Garnishment
There are three types of social security benefits that can be used as income for an individual.
Social Security Disability (SSD) is income received following a disability that makes someone unable to work. The amount of income received is based on the number of years that someone has worked, and the amount that has been paid into the SSD program.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is awarded to individuals that are not able to work and are disabled. This income is not based on past employment history.
Social Security Retirement Benefits are benefits paid to workers upon retirement, and depend on the age at which an individual retires, how long the person has worked, as well as how much the worker has paid into the program.
Filing an Income Withholding Order
The first step is to obtain a signed income withholding order. This outlines the payments required as well as how the payments should be deducted moving forward. The second step is to mail, preferably certified mail return receipt requested, the signed income withholding order to the Social Security Administration. Generally it takes the Social Security Administration sixty to ninety days to process your order. Once the order is processed, you should receive your payments directly from the Social Security Administration.
Often times, collecting payments from court ordered alimony or child support payments that have stopped can be a long and stressful process, but with an income withholding order, you will receive your payments automatically from any income, wages, or social security benefits that your former spouse is receiving. This takes away their choice in the matter and keeps them in line with the court ordered payments you deserve.
Understanding your options when it comes to receiving any alimony or child support payments that are due to you is an important task that Seff & Capizzi Law Group takes seriously. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.
If you need assistance with receiving your alimony or child support payments, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.