Can Child Support Be Taken From a Personal Injury Settlement?

Category: Resources
Personal Injury and Child Support

Personal Injury and Child Support

Personal injury cases are not a pleasant experience since, as the name implies, it requires you to have suffered an injury to file one. However, once the injury claim has been filed, you have the potential to reap a fair compensation that can even result in a small financial windfall. Of course, it’s never that simple with any legal process.

Child support is ongoing and periodic payments are made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child. The injured parent who is responsible for the child support is up to date on the payments does not have to worry as long as they keep making them.

However, that is often not the case, as parents can have liens on them for unpaid child support. This brings concern that a party might also garnish your settlement in the name of repaying child support. However, there is an additional concern for those of us who have children with individuals who are no longer our partners.

After suffering a severe injury and dealing with stressful court cases and medical costs, the last thing you likely want to think about is the contentious but vital topic of child support. With this article, we hope to clarify whether or not your injury settlement will be drained for child support obligations.

How Does Child Support Work?

If you pay child support, you likely already have a good grasp of what it means. However, insofar as the letter of the law is concerned, those are the details that matter.

As a non-custodial parent, the child support process is your way of contributing to the costs of child-rearing that you cannot provide due to no longer sharing finances with your former partner or raising the child yourself.

The amount paid is generally static and takes the non-custodial parent’s income into account before a sum is declared.

However, other factors lead to a fair sum for child support payments.

How Does Child Support Work

Regardless of the sum being paid, the frequency of payments is generally just as regular as the amount expected. The court will determine whether child support is to be paid weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. Monthly payments are the most common.

This schedule means that you will not have to pay any more frequently if you are consistent with your child support payments. Calculating the required amount of money for child support and how the other party will secure those funds is relatively straightforward.

Child support is not automatically taken from paychecks by default. The non-custodial parent is expected to use the available funds and pay the support much like how one would pay monthly payments for a car or apartment. The only exception is back child support, but we will cover more about that later.

Now that we have a firm outline on the amount of child support and the payment structure, which we know you likely already understand, we can consider the main question.

Does Child Support Get Deducted From Personal Injury Settlements?

A personal injury settlement is the agreed upon sum given to the victims of a personal injury accident to help meet the financial cost of treatment and compensate for damages. With car and truck accidents the settlement is typically between the injured victim and the liable insurance company.

These funds are designed to be your remuneration for the pain and suffering you endured, which makes them more or less yours aside from the purpose of paying off medical expenses.

As a result, virtually nothing can touch the sum unless you intend to allocate some funds towards paying for something. Even your medical providers cannot force you to use those funds to pay them off, and as a general rule, personal injury settlements are tax exempt.

Child Support Deducted From Settlements

So, in the question of whether or not you can deduct child support from your settlement amount and whether these funds are considered income, the answer is generally “no.” No regulations force you to use your personal injury settlement gains to pay your monthly child support payments if you are up to date on those payments.

If your award amount serves as the sole source of funds you have to do so, it is better to use it for that purpose. However, no one can force the issue. This liberty, however, is not absolute as it is predicated on you having paid your child support order regularly and being in good standing in the eyes of the law.

Your former partner cannot, for example, hear of your settlement and demand a portion of it as child support if you are up to date on payments. Since you have fulfilled your child support obligations to this point and personal injury settlements are not a form of reliable income, they cannot be considered for the renegotiation of child support agreements.

That said, falling behind in your child support payments can certainly change things.

Arrears Affect What You Keep

Child support arrears are just a legalese way of referring to child support that has gone unpaid, and you are financially responsible for paying. While those who have successfully maintained their child support payments are not expected to surrender percentages of their injury settlements to pay it off, those who have incurred these arrears are in a much different boat.

If you have allowed yourself to fall behind on your child support payments, you run the risk of having your finances examined more closely to make the payments more regular.

Garnishment is a well-known concept between law firms and the legal world. Traditionally, it applies to your regular income having outstanding balances deducted from your paychecks.

Child support is one of the costs that can cause your income to be reduced to pay off the overdue balance. The same can apply when it comes to legally-awarded funds like personal injury settlements. Many states will garnish your settlement to redirect it toward paying the child support you have not effectively kept up on paying.

Support vs Garnishment

While your settlement is designed to serve as your remuneration, it becomes subject to regulation if you do not meet your legal obligations. In extreme cases, your settlement has a lien placed on it that prevents you from accessing the funds until your child support payments are up to date.

As we said, these measures will vary depending on the state you live in, so you might not have to worry about your settlement being garnished for child support.

The goal of the garnishment is to see the child support repaid in full, so they will not drain the entire settlement if a portion is earmarked for your medical treatments. The garnished amount will depend on how much is needed to pay for your medical bills and the remaining funds.

While arrears can cause you to lose out on a settlement, it is possible to reach out to your former partner and attempt to negotiate the sum owed and the overall cost of child support in the long term. However, these kinds of measures are best pursued with the assistance of a legal professional to ensure the best results.

Can You Counter Garnishment?

If you’ve neglected to pay your child support, child support enforcement may impose a child support lien that requires your bank accounts to be garnished. This is almost always justifiable and fair. The government has been financially supporting your child in your place.

If your settlement is being withheld due to past-due child support, you might be curious to see if you can take any methods to combat it. The answer is a tentative yes with a lot of strings attached. So don’t take it as a recommendation or legal advice.

Specifically, the only way to protest garnishment is to file for a court hearing. If the hearing is approved, it will occur pretty quickly. However, the odds of it being approved might be a bit of a challenge since the objections you can make are not only minimal but designed to combat wage garnishment rather than a settlement.

The first point you can make is that the amount you are accused of owing is incorrect, and you are being expected to pay more than you should. It needs to be taken seriously if this is the case since the child support sum is carefully calculated. However, you will need proof that the amount is erroneous, and failing to provide compelling evidence will shoot this objection down quickly.

The next consideration is that the amount you are being charged will make it impossible to survive. Again, this is more oriented toward wage garnishment since settlements are not a primary income source.

However, it might be possible to claim that the amount they intend to garnish could make paying your medical costs impossible and mitigate the amount withheld.

Counter Garnishment

Some states will allow a more intense and combative objection to the garnishment. Specifically, they might allow you to claim that the reason for the arrear was due to your former partner withholding your child and preventing you from being able to see them.

You should note that the premise of child support and custody agreements are separate matters, and one does not entitle you to withhold the other. However, it might serve to deal with the garnishment and repair any custody disputes in some instances.

The final objection that might be possible for you to address is a conflict in custody at the time the arrear alleges you failed to pay.

If for whatever reason, the arrear manifested at a time when you were the custodial parent of your child, it is possible to have the sum dismissed. Since, as the custodial parent, your ex-partner would have been the one paying child support instead of you.

According to the custody agreement, this defense is extremely niche and only applicable if you were the custodial parent and not simply having your kid visit.

In any case, it’s in your best interest to discuss this with both your personal injury lawyer and your family law attorney. If you haven’t already retained counsel and an attorney-client relationship, it would be best if you started that process early for individualized legal advice.

You may require both a personal injury attorney and a family law attorney for your child support case; personal injury law and family law are two very different practices requiring distinct legal support.

Other Factors to Consider

While having your settlement funds garnished to pay back support is a concern, other factors might dictate how a settlement is dispersed. Specifically, it would help if you addressed whether or not your child was involved in the accident that caused the injury.

If your child or children were involved and were injured in a car accident, for example, then a settlement would be negotiated that allows you to tend to the costs of their medical care as well.

Factors to Consider

The settlement for your child’s injuries will be a separate balance from the one allocated to your needs. As a result, any child support arrears you have pending will only be drawn from the settlement legally registered to you.

We know we have already expressed that the laws on whether or not another party can garnish your injury settlement will have rules varying by state. However, knowing your state’s specific laws is an essential step in understanding how things will play out for you.

For example, in Texas, the law enables all forms of income, like personal injury settlements, to be garnished to compensate for arrears. However, with 50 states in the country, we cannot list the details of every state’s policy.

We encourage you to review your state’s child support laws and arrears or consult with an attorney if you want more information. Either way, it will afford you the knowledge you need to understand how such cases will affect your settlement.

Closing Statements on Child Support Debt

Child support is not something to neglect or take lightly, as failing to uphold your parental responsibilities brings a hefty cost. Even when you have suffered grievous injury, you are not exempt from fulfilling your child support obligations.

While your injury settlement sum will only be subjected to a lien if you owe back support, it is still subject to such policies. However, we know that a personal injury claim and working with a car accident attorney is not exactly an easy thing to handle.

Closing Statements

Personal injury claims combined with child support payments can make managing your day-to-day living expenses very difficult. Between making your payments to your former partner, tending to your medical costs, and paying for standard necessities like rent or power, you can find yourself in a sea of expenses.

Fortunately, there might be a life raft in that ocean. Express Legal Funding offers a service that would afford you pre-settlement funding for necessary expenses like rent and bills that only is repaid with your settlement or trial award money.

While it cannot you can not allocate it for attorney fees or case expenses; it can offer you the support you need to make to continue making child support payments without getting behind on bills and losing power to your home.

The best part about pre-settlement funding is that it’s risk-free. We only expect to get repaid from your settlement or personal injury award.

As so often is said, if you lose your case, you owe us nothing. So, go ahead and call us today for real assistance when you need it through a helpful and free consultation to help you learn more about lawsuit funding and whether it is the best option for you.


About the Author

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Aaron R Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. Aaron Winston is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.

He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs. Each month, thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.

As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery. 

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