Family Law

Veterans Benefits and Child Support

Can my veteran’s benefits be taken away to pay child support?

As a general rule, yes. While most federal benefits, including veterans benefits, generally can’t be withheld, attached, garnished, or otherwise taken by a creditor in an attempt to collect on a debt, child support is an exception, as is spousal maintenance (alimony). A.R.S. § 12-1539(B); 42 U.S.C. § 659

Can my veteran’s benefits be taken away to pay child support?

As a general rule, yes. While most federal benefits, including veterans benefits, generally can’t be withheld, attached, garnished, or otherwise taken by a creditor in an attempt to collect on a debt, child support is an exception, as is spousal maintenance (alimony). A.R.S. § 12-1539(B); 42 U.S.C. § 659

If veterans benefits are my only source of income, do I still have to pay child support?

Yes. If the child’s other parent obtains a court order for child support, you must comply with that order even if veterans benefits are your only source of income.

Can my veterans benefits be garnished as earnings to pay child support?

It depends. It certain situations, the child’s other parent can get a court order to garnish your benefits as earnings, and in other situations they can’t. If your benefits are garnished as earnings, it means that the VA will be ordered to send some of your benefits directly to the child’s other parent.

  • If you receive veterans disability benefits only, and you haven’t waived military retirement benefits that you’re entitled to, then your benefits generally can’t be garnished as earnings to pay child support.
  • If you waived all or part your military retirement benefits and receive veterans disability benefits only instead, then the equivalent of the amount that you waived generally can be garnished as earnings to pay child support, while the rest of your veterans disability benefits generally can’t be garnished as earnings to pay child support.
  • If you receive military retirement benefits and veterans disability benefits, then your veterans disability benefits generally can be garnished as earnings to pay child support. 42 U.S.C. § 662; 5 C.F.R. § 581.103

Can my veterans benefits be garnished as non-earnings to pay child support after they’re deposited into my bank account? 

It depends. It certain situations, the child’s other parent can get a court order to garnish your benefits as non-earnings, and in other situations they can’t. If your benefits are garnished as non-earnings, it means that the bank or other financial institution where your benefits go can be ordered to take money from your account and send it to the child’s other parent.

  • If benefits were deposited into your bank account within the prior two months, and the account that your benefits are deposited into contains the equivalent of more than two months’ worth of benefits, then the additional amount of money generally can be garnished as non-earnings.
  • If benefits were deposited into your bank account within the prior two months, and the account that your benefits are deposited into contains less than the equivalent of two months’ worth of benefits, then the money generally can’t be garnished as non-earnings.
  • If benefits were deposited into your bank account within the prior two months, but you then transferred them into a different account, the entire amount generally can be garnished as non-earnings. 31 C.F.R. § 212

If my benefits can’t be garnished, can the child’s other parent still ask the VA to send them some of my benefits?

Yes. The child’s other parent can ask the VA for an “apportionment,” which means that a portion of your benefits will be sent directly to the child’s other parent as a child support payment. 38 U.S.C. § 5307; 38 C.F.R. § 3.450 et seq.

How is apportionment different from garnishment?

Although garnishment and apportionment work the same way, garnishment is a court process, while apportionment is an administrative process that happens entirely within the VA.

The VA makes apportionment decisions by attempting to balance the needs of the veteran with the needs of the child. 38 C.F.R. § 3.451

Ordinarily, the child’s other parent must file for an apportionment before the VA will consider garnishment. 

If my veterans benefits can’t be garnished, and aren’t apportioned, what other options does the child’s other parent have if I refuse to pay child support?

The child’s other parent has various options. For example, they can ask the court to hold you in contempt for violating the child support order. If the court holds you in contempt, it can order that you be arrested. A.R.S. § 25-502(I); A.R.S. § 25-681 

The other parent can also ask the Arizona Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to enforce the court’s order. Depending on how far you’ve fallen behind on your child support payments, once DCSS gets involved, it can (among other things): 

  • issue an administrative income withholding order to deduct child support from your earnings, including your wages, salary, other employment compensation, pension, or other retirement benefits A.R.S. § 25-505.01
  • report your unpaid child support to each of the credit reporting agencies, which may negatively impact your credit report and your credit score A.R.S. § 25-512
  • suspend your driver license, professional license, and/or recreational (e.g., fishing) license A.R.S. §§ 25-517, 518
  • place a lien on your property, such as a car or your home, so you can’t sell or refinance it without paying what you owe A.R.S. § 25-516
  • intercept your state income tax refunds and redirect them to the child’s other parent 45 C.F.R. §303.102

 

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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