Can Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement be Used to Pay Back Owed Child Support?
So you have settled or won your workers’ compensation case, and part of the settlement calls for you to receive a lump sum of money, perhaps to compensate you for previous lost wages not paid, or an early cutoff of benefits, or benefits that were unpaid but should have been paid.
Your attorney goes through the settlement and gives you the figure that you can expect to keep, after payment of any fees or costs. Except there is something in that breakdown that you didn’t expect: The payment of back owed child support. Yes, it’s true—some of your workers’ compensation settlement can be used to satisfy any back-owed and not-paid child support that you may owe.
Why Child Support is Different
Workers’ compensation settlements are generally exempt from creditor claims. For example, if you owe money to a credit card, or have a judgment against you for the nonpayment of a medical or some other type of debt, the creditor cannot take your workers’ compensation settlement funds to satisfy the judgment.
However, back- owed child support is not considered a debt like any other debt, and there are ways that the state can collect child support that other creditors do not have available to them. One such way is by taking part of an employee’s workers’ compensation settlement.
By law, as much as half of your net recovery can be used to satisfy a child support arrearage. The money is sent to whatever state agency is handling the child support claim.
When and How the Support Lien is Made
It is important for workers to know, before settling a claim, whether they have any back owed child support, and if so, what the amount is. Remember that if the worker disagrees with the child support amount, there is nothing the workers’ compensation court, or, usually, even your workers’ compensation attorney can do about the amount owed. The worker will have to challenge the arrearage amount with the state agency handling collection of the child support.
The creditor—the state, or the oblige parent—can assert the lien on the proceeds of a settlement or judgment, even before the amount of the settlement or judgment is determined.
Negotiating the Amount Owed or Held Back
Sometimes, it is easier if the obligee parent is individually collecting on a child support judgment, as opposed to having a state agency collect and pursue on back owed child support. The other parent can be dealt with, and negotiated with, privately, to see if an agreement as to how much of the settlement is to be held for child support can be reached.
Generally, a judge has some discretion, and may hold back less than what is owed for the support (or less than 50% of the settlement), if it appears that the worker needs the funds to live off of, to pay outside bills, or to support him or herself.
The Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you in all stages of your workers’ compensation case. Call us today to discuss obtaining damages after any accident at work. Schedule a consultation today.