Family Law

Child Support and Public Assistance

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Sad Woman with Child

Raising children is expensive, and not all custodial parents can make ends meet, especially if they're out of work or employed at a minimum wage job. When a parent who is receiving child support reaches out to the government for public assistance, it doesn't mean an increase in household income. In most cases, the parent may end up receiving public assistance instead of their child support.

Some States Require You to Sign Over Your Support

In most states, you can't collect both child support and public assistance. When you apply for public assistance while you are receiving child support, the government requires you to sign your child support payments over to the state. The government collects your child support instead, and this pays the state back for the money the state is giving you to help you make ends meet.

You Must Collect Child Support

If you're not collecting child support for a child when you apply for public assistance, most states will take legal steps to begin collecting it for you. Public policy requires parents to support their children financially so, if your child's other parent isn't doing so, the state will take action to get you a child support order. You must usually work with the state to help the process along. When you begin collecting child support, the money goes to the state, just as it would if you had been collecting it all along.

Some States Will Take Your Child Support Arrears

If you have a child support order, but your child's other parent isn't paying it, the state will also take steps to get that money. The government can take tax refunds due the other parent and place liens against a parent's property, forcing the parent to pay child support arrears or past due balance, before the property can be sold. These lump sum payments usually go to the state as well, to pay the government (and the taxpayers) back for the money it gave you through public assistance.

Some Exceptions Exist

If the state collects past-due child support for you in a lump sum, and if the lump sum is more than the government has given you in public assistance, you usually get to keep the difference. In some states, you can keep past-due child support payments that were due to you before you began receiving public assistance. However, the state may count the child support as income and adjust your benefits. An increase in your income might reduce the amount of your public assistance payments.

A Family Law Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding child support and public assistance is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.

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