When a noncustodial parent in California does not make the child support payments that they were ordered to make, their monthly Social Security income may be garnished. Supplemental Security Income, which is considered a type of welfare, cannot be garnished for back child support. However, disability benefits, survivor benefits, retirement benefits and other earned Social Security benefits may be subject to garnishment.
Before a noncustodial parent's Social Security benefits can be garnished for child support enforcement, the custodial parent must make a request with their local Social Security office. The parent making the request would need to present an income withholding order to the Social Security office that they received from a judge. A judge will only issue an income withholding order if the custodial parent is able to prove that they are not receiving child support payments.
Once the Social Security office has an income withholding order, they are entitled to garnish as much as 65 percent of the parent's monthly benefits. The amount that is garnished will depend on the parent's financial circumstances and whether the parent has other dependent children or not. If the parent stops collecting Social Security benefits, the order for income withholding will remain in their file.
A parent who has gotten behind on child support payments and is at risk for having their income garnished might want to speak with an attorney. If the parent has had a change in financial circumstances since the initial child support order was issued, an attorney may be able to help them to request child support modification.