November 17, 2019

How Should Courts Balance the Needs of Custodial Parents with the Financial Reality of a Disabled Non-custodial Parent

Conflict in a familyThe comments and questions I receive on this site essentially fall into two camps.  On one hand, the custodial parents (usually the mom) argue as follows:

What about the MOM of the CHILD or whoever else is taking care of your child? Is she/he on a fixed income? I’m sure being the only person taking care of your child, it is tight so y r u so special that you shouldn’t have to pay just because u r on a fixed income? If you are BEHIND in Child Support then u SUCK!! Period.

On the other hand, the non-custodial parent (usually a dad) writes with arguments like this:

During the time I was out following three heart attacks my support got in arrears. I was taken to court. From the get go I was treated like a criminal. Later I filed for SSDI and after 3 years and multiple denial a judge approved me. I am 20k behind now. My benefits letter states i will recieve $900 a month, a vast sum of money to try and live on I know. But minus the $550 a month for arrearages makes it better. So after all I get $350 an month to exist on. Personally I would rather be able to work, because $350 isn’t worth what you go through to get it. There’s a lot of predjudice against people when they say they are disabled. What some people don’t see or won’t accept is some of us are forced into disability.
I never expected to get enough from SSDI to “live” on, but I did expect enough to survive on.

Then there are the cynical readers:

Child support should be taken from both parents equally put into a monitored account and a debit card should be given to the custodial parent, all money used with account would be tracked. Now adays child support is used as a way of getting free money for travels new cars hanging out at the malls and nothing to do with the kids.

Are there any fair solutions?  What do you think?


Jonathan Ginsberg practices Social Security disability law in Atlanta, Georgia.  He represents clients in claims before the Social Security Administration.


  1. First off, my daughter is already 18, has already graduated from a vocational school, back attending for a different qualification, and they took my disablitity, and i got no notice. I did get a letter from them after I got my first deduction, and by any calculator i have used, they are taking way too much. I asked for a hearing in mo, and they sent me about 50 pages of whatever. They are making no accomodations for the fact that I am disabled, and I could not get help from either Mo officials or social security. They both refer me to the other, and suggest i either hire a lawyer (i cant afford one), or complete the paperwork myself. I am blind, so even reading it is difficult. I also understand now, that i am supposed to be provided with documents showing how they arrived at the amounts, and i have never been given anything like that. So how do i get them to comply with their own laws? I get dead ended on phone calls, and its very frustrating. They also tell me if i wind up overpaid, then it is a civil matter, but they are the ones causing it.

  2. Ok I know that disability is the last thing most men want to be on and not pay their child support. What concerns me is the with my recent lay off from a job and my current part time job, not paying much and my ex now reducing his support to only 500 a month, it s made it impossible to take care of my son. I just want to know if there is any help to my son for some sort of additional support coming from SSI? I know my ex needs $ to live on, I just need to take care of our child. And who determines what my child should get from this reduced payment situation? It’s taking a while to find a new jbos, with the economy in such a bad state. I live in NY and my ex lives in Washington state I live in a high cost of living area and he does not??? Just a few questions. Donna

  3. Jonathan Ginsberg says

    @Donna: Donna, I think that the court that issued the support order would make any decisions about changes to the support obligation. In theory the amount of support should reflect the needs of the child as opposed to the needs of the non-custodial parent, but in reality, it does not always work that way.

  4. I just have a question. My daughter’s father was just approved for ssdi and there is no child support order, can she collect benefits or do I have to file for child support?

  5. Hi. I’m My husbands tutor in Social Security. I need to know if they can deduct from his check if I recieve the benefits for his needs? Also if there is a limit to what they deduct because he is being deduct from treasuary every month also his medication and doctors visit? I need legal advice.

  6. Hugh Gladstone says

    The Family Court system is very bad and is harming millions of people all across America. I’m disabled from Polio at the age of two, but i never wanted to give in to my disability and went to enormous lengths to find work and work hard. In 1990 with an ex-wife and four kids i was being evicted from my apartment and was losing my car. My child support payments were $1250.00 per month and that was an impossible amopunt for me to pay at that time. After about a year of struggles, it became impossible for me and I was taken in by social services. Family Court ordered me to apply for disability and i got it a year later and began to slowly get back to a place where I could take care of myself. My disability became much worse do to the stress and i was never able to return to work. They garnished my social security disability for the next ten years, but my support order was at zero and my disability paid my kids half of what i was getting so child support was taken care of. I received a small inheritance in 2004 and paid off the balance of my child support arrears of about $25,000.00 voluntarily. One year later i’m back in family court and it was just as unfair this time as it was the first time. They are not on your side and they are out to get you. With an income of about $15,000 a year they said i was making just under $200,000.00 a year in business which was a lie and they knew it. My child support was set at about $35,000.00 a year. The cost of the insurance for this last child is $690.00 per year and my income is less than 20% of hers. Still they said i should pay 91%. When i add it up i see that they are charging me about double of what she actually pays for her medical insurance.

    I got the first two orders vacated but they just hit me with another one. They make money from a welfare program called Title IV-D and even rich people go on it for the free attorney and tax credits that i don’t get and her attorney is unfair the judge is unfair and it’s all not right. The federal government pays the states nearly 5 billion dollars a year in matching funds to up the child support awards and that’s a lot of incentive to harm the non-custodial parent which it does. This is not a free country anymore. If you think that it might be worth it because it makes the welfare dads pay up for the cost of welfare, it does not do that. As child support orders have doubled the cost to the tax payer has gone up probably four times what it was.

    We need to stop this horrible family court plunder of fathers. As a disabled person, we need to have compassion for those less fortunate, disabled or poor.

  7. My fiance has 1 kidney since he was a month old. He has 2 son’s 15 and 17. One has Aspergers the other is Autistic. The 15 yr.old has autism and was receiving SS benefits for years. Now that the ex-wife is working full-time and receives $600.00 mo. in child support always on time, no arrears owed ever, I’m not sure if she still receives SS benefits or not. My question is now that my fiance’s facing dialysis very soon and will have to apply for SSD or SSI how and what is his child support based on? Do the children get a benefit check themselves each month? Does the child support obligation amount get lowered? He’s not trying to get out of paying support like the rest of these rotten father’s he was just wondering how things work. If the child support get’s reduced due to his disability will the child with autism then become eligible for SSI benefits? We live in NY State my fiance has worked very, very hard since the age of 14 but he is now at the point where it’s almost becoming impossible to work as hard as he is used to working and with only 1 kidney to begin with it’s a do or die situation when it comes to dialysis or getting a kidney transplant.
    If you can answer some of these questions we would greatly appreciate it.

  8. @Donna: Donna. I think you need to get a full time job! Your getting $500 tax free a month. Maybe YOU should think about working full-time and putting your child first or does that conflict with your care-free lifestyle of working when you feel like it?

  9. My ex-husband recently informed me that he was approved by Social Security. He is 49 and from what he has told me, he has skin cancer and has had 2 surgeries. He also has said recent tests show he is cancer free but will go through treatments. He said Social Security has approved him while he goes through the treatments. He was receiving unemployment benefits which was paying $80 each week for child support. He said he has stopped the unemployment benefits and that our son will start receiving a check from Social Security. I don’t know anything about Social Security except that I into it every month through my full time job. He told me that the Social Securtiy check our son will receive is child support. There is a court order in place in which he is ordered to pay $350 monthly. He currently is in arrears and has been since the court order of 2008. Currently, the case is handled by the Child Support Division. Do I need to inform our case manager with Child Support and/or Social Security of anything?

  10. My x is skitzo and was arrested when our daughter was 7. He was too crazy for general population so was court ordered to a mental facility for 8 years. Upon his release he was FINALLY declaired mentally disabled. I began getting a monthly payment for our daughter and 3 months back pay. My question is what about the 8 years back pay? We tried several times before his arrest to have him declaired mentally disabled- all denied. Then the prison sends him to a facility to serve his sentence. Doesn’t that mean the state knows he was disabled that whole 8 years? Thanks for any advise.

  11. Jody Watkins says

    Good greef, the man is dying of cancer and all you care about is getting some money so you can live it up.

    Get a life

  12. Hi All, Sensitive subjects indeed here at this site. Everyone please try to keep a fair and open mind. I became disabled in 2007. Finally, in 2010 the judge here in Arizona ended my child support order and effectively replaced it with the derivative my daughter received from SSDI. The odd part (and the part that angers me) is that my support obligation before disability was $565 a month. The derivative my daughter’s mom receives is $685 a month! I asked the judge to apply the $120 difference to my arrearage from 2007 to the present. She said ‘it was not possible.’ My question to everyone is “Is that really true?” We’re in the 21st century and a judge still can’t make a simple decision such as directing the clearing house to appropriately divide the derivative money? Seems unusual…. Any infor you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  13. kristie lee says

    I’m on SSDI now after I almost lost my life in an accident. They are still taking child support out of my SSDI which I was told they couldn’t since that’s all I have to provide for my kids. I am completly disabled and my doctor has already sent in proof of this. THEN my ex took me back to court to get most money from me. My son is getting my SSI of $131 a month and I have a total of 4 kids. Then they raised my support payments to 145 a month. Now I have less to provide for my kids. I have also recieved a letter from SS office that since my son got my SSI payments they would stop my child support since I’m disabled, until he took me back to court and had a different person. This is the problem with the system now. Since everything is being cut new people in office want to make an impression and they take take take, never hearing the whole picture. When I was at the ss office they told me when I became my own payee I’d be the payee for ALL my kids. This has never happened and they told me they didn’t like me so they wouldn’t allow it. My other ex is recieving my SSI for my other 3 kids and his new wife has called up there and gotten all my personal info. This I know is against the law but no one will help me. He is also claiming my SSI for a son which isn’t his. I know this is against the law how do I recieve justice from all this please. I live at poverty level and can’t work. PLEASE advise me legally!!!

  14. I’m tire of women bitching about being a single parent. The court system makes it that way by in most cases giving the kids to the mother, why are they the default parent for the kids to go to???? I have full custody of my two kids after spending nearly $75,0000 and losing everything I owned this is after she admitted to beating the kids they sent them back with her for 10 months. Keep in mind she told the Judge I do hit the kids probably when I shouldn’t. She choked them punched them pushed them onto concrete floors and so on. The Judge still gave her custody and sent them home with her, WTF. Women want the kids then complain about being a single mother and judge’s never give a father a break , Just pay $650.00 and leave the house. I’ve had my two kids for 2 years now and you don’t hear me crying about being a single father. Sorry but I’m tired of hearing “usually Dad” or he or him on these sites, get over it and stand on your own..

  15. @Bryan: I stopped counting after $40K, but NEVER got custody of my son. Now, he has become the gang member I tried to keep him from becoming (and which his mother supported, by not actively parenting). Such a loss.

    May your children fare better. A lot better.

  16. @mary: Umm, let me get this straight. Your husband is certified and legally insane? Meaning he is mentally incompitent? Probably instead of trying to figure out how you can make money on his misfortune, maybe you should have some compassion. Thats whats wrong with our system and our society right now. Greedy Custodial Parents. Yall make me sick to my stomach.

    I am currently ordered to pay $1250 per month in Child Support for 3 kids. One in Texas from my 1st wife, and two in Louisiana with my 2nd wife. The thing is, after the second order was introduced in 2008 (The louisiana order was $747 per month; I have been paying $400 per month for about 8 years now regularly for the daughter in Texas) I wasn’t making enough money to cover both orders and still have any income left to pay my bills and rent. The job I had in Texas was taking 50% of my NET INCOME and sending 66% to the ex with two kids, and sending 33% to the ex in Texas with one kid. Yet with 50% of my Net Income being witheld, it still wasn’t covering the $1250 per month. And I had to pay $600 per month in rent, plus electricity, water, etc.. So eventually I had to move in with my mother (A grown man having to live with mom because the court system decided it didn’t matter if I couldnt afford my child support). I was going 3 and sometimes 4 weeks without seeing my 2 boys in Louisiana though because I couldn’t afford the gas to go see them. So, I took a job in South Louisiana, and rented a house here. However, since I moved here I haven’t been able to make a full payment to either of the ex wives, so once again, I’m falling farther and farther behind on child support. I got summoned to court and went last month. I was basically put on probation, with the understanding that if I don’t make a full $850 ($100 extra now for back child support) payment every month to the Baton Rouge Child Support Enforcement Office, that I will be summoned back to court, where I will be held in contempt, and put in jail for 30 days. Of course, I’ll lose my job, and the ex wives won’t recieve ANYTHING at all during my time in jail, but its all about the kids, right? Even with my ex wife right there with me, trying to tell the judge that my support order needed to be lowered so that I could make the payment every month, he didn’t listen. She told them that we could come to an agreement and that putting me in jail would only hurt the kids since they are used to me coming over at least 4 or 5 times a week, but the judge, again, didn’t seem to be concerned about that. So now, I have had two paychecks since that court date. I now sleep on my ex wifes couch, because after sending my WHOLE CHECK to Baton Rouge, I can’t afford to live anywhere else. and I mean that literally when I say my WHOLE CHECK, after taxes of course. And here’s the real kicker, I am now, because I’m sending my whole check to Baton Rouge, falling further behind on my Texas Child Support Order. Nothing wrong with the system though, huh?

  17. @Bryan: Thank You very much sir!! Exactly!! Well Said!! If you don’t want to be a single parent, I’m sure their father would be happy to take them, I know most fathers would, in spite of what the mother says. I certainly would, and wouldn’t ask for child support either. If she wanted to help me when she could, fine. If not, thats Ok too. What I wouldn’t do is try to put their mother in jail.

  18. I began recieving SSDI last June. I got my lump sum check of about 25K. I hired an attorney so that the lump sum that would go to my children would also be applied to the arrears that stacked because my X chose to milk the system instead of going to court (2X) appropriated mediation back in 2009 when I first became unemployed and deemed disabled. Stating that why should she go if she was only going to lose money!! I did get a sympathetic judge before the SSDI decision came in and he reduced the monthly support, but by this time the arrears had stacked to about 17K and I was told nothing could be done to get rid of that?!

    So, I thought that hiring an attorney this time around to ensure that my kids would be taken care of would be the best option. However, when the X found out that they would be getting a lump sum, instead of filing right away when the $$ would go to her and be applied to the arrears, she waited until my youngest son was 18 making the lump sum go to him. My attorney has been very bleak on the outcome stating that our best “option” is to settle on an agreeable lump payment to the X to take care of the arrears since the arrears are owed to her and not the children! I of course have put most of my $$ towards attorney fees! I want to go to court, but my attorney advises me that I probably wouldn’t have better results, but I have read in various forums that the lump sum from SSDI is typically applied towards arrears even if the money goes to the children instead of the custodial parent?! I am very frustrated and need some advice! I have and do only want what is best for my children! I have 3 and my daughter has everything handed to her and my sons have not had much of their basic needs taken care of. I have given them extra money just to help out with those things because she refuses to take care of them! I can’t afford to have these arrears hanging over my head and still help my children or maintain my needs in addition. I feel like my attorney isn’t much help and I really need some advice?!

  19. ok well i am 39 left my kids father five yrs ago he was a very abusive alcholic and has two felony charges of child abuse with injury. right after i left him he filed for him ssi in 2007. In the mean time i dont get a dime to help take care of his kids not even a crumb of bread for them. I have worked and still work full time take care of them it is very tight and we struggle but we do it. Well he was approved for SSDI and has to have a rep payee over his money. Which he put his sister over it. The kids has lived with me this entire time and dont even get to see him often cuz of the alchol but no divorce has been done because i just simply havent had the money to get it. But he is ordered thru child support enf to pay 401 a month in which he has not paid a penny on and mind u there is 4 little kids involved in this 401 a month i didnt think was to bad and i would have even been happy with a $5 bill here and there but he wouldnt do it
    Well he was approved for SSDI and his sister is his representative payee and the kids has been with me this whole time on my tax’s , in this school system , I am the custodial parent thru child support enf even tho there was no divorce in place yet. But he is wantin the kids money also. He wants his sister to be the ref payee over my 4 kids also. Not sure how fair that is to kids or if he can even do that. Told me if i fight it he will get a lawyer. Not sure wat i can do bout this or if i can do anything at all………….heart broken for the kids….I dont have to have the money to take care of them i have done it for 5 yrs now…..but would like to see them get it so they have something to go to college on someday
    My hat is off to u men who in fact really do that effort to take care of ur babies or u would take them and raise them urself it is very hard in this world for both parents i realize that. I have worked and worked with him and signed away 6,000.00 in child support sayin he was payed up when he wasnt at all so it would keep him out of jail and try to do him a favor. But now when my kids can actually have something when they get old enuff to need it he wants to take that to . ANY answers for me………….
    P.S. i am not here to bash on men at all i know there is awesome daddies out there that just havin a hard time like anyone else and that is TOTALLY different

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