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Can Personal Injury Settlements Be Garnished for Child Support?

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Posted By DAM Firm | June 14 2021 | Personal Injury

If you are expecting to receive a personal injury settlement or jury verdict award amount after sustaining an injury caused by the actions of someone else, you need to know what will happen to this money if you also owe back child support. The reality is that officials in the state of California are very strict about collecting child support, as they should be. But there are various reasons why individuals get behind on these payments, and not all these reasons are nefarious. Regardless of why you may be behind on your child support payments, you need to know what will happen when your personal injury settlement comes in.

Important Child Support Terms You Need to Understand

First, we do need to point out that child support is not optional. If you have been ordered by the court to pay child support payments, you absolutely have to make them. If you miss a payment, this does not make the payment go away. Back child support will gather interest, and individuals will end up paying even more. The state of California will go after a person’s income, bank accounts, and tax returns to recover unpaid child support.

Two of the most common terms that come up over and over in these cases include “arrear” and “lien.”

  • An arrear is money that a person owes which should have been paid at an earlier date. For example, we will often hear the phrase that person has outstanding child support arrears.
  • A lien refers to a person’s right to keep the property or possessions owned by another person until the individual repays the debt that they owe. For example, a title loan company may place a lien on a car title if you borrowed money from them.

So, how do these two terms relate to child support?
If a person is late on their child support payments, then they will technically be in arrears, and the state may put a lien on their property. When we are talking about personal injury cases, it is possible for the state to put a lien on the personal injury settlement.

The State has the Power

The state of California has significant authority to garnish a person’s wages in order to collect unpaid child support. Because child support payments come about as a result of a court order, the state will force a person to pay it. If the other parent who has not received the support requested legal assistance in the past to recover child support payments, there may already be a lien in place. Usually, individuals received a certified letter from the state letting them know about the child support that they owe.

If the state does decide to come after a personal injury settlement that you receive in order to pay down your child support debt, you and the insurance company that will be paying the claim will be notified.

However, there are other expenses that will be paid before the child support arrears are collected. First, your medical bills and attorney fees will be paid out of the personal injury settlement before the remainder is to be distributed to you. The remainder that goes to you can be garnished by the state to pay the child support arrears.

Work With an Attorney

We strongly suggest that you work with a skilled attorney when it comes to getting your personal injury settlement affairs in order. If you are aware that you owe child support payments, let your attorney know this ahead of time so they will not be caught off guard by the state coming after the personal injury settlement. Your personal injury attorney will be able to guide you through this process and come up with a solution that is most beneficial for you but that also satisfies the debt that you owe. Please understand that there is no way to get around paying child support arrears. If the state wants to come after you for these payments, they are going to do so, and they will do so vigorously.

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