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Can alimony wage garnishments apply to Social Security?

You know that wages can be garnished to pay alimony. For instance, if your spouse was ordered to pay you $1,500 per month and fails to do so, that money can be taken from his or her paycheck and directed on to you. By working with employers, the government ensures that employees have to pay what they owe under current court orders. The same thing may be used for child support payments.

But what about Social Security benefits? Can those also be garnished after failure to pay child support or alimony?

They can. The Social Security Administration notes that retroactive adjustments won't be made, but the agency can garnish benefits that are current and that will continue. They can only do this when a person is legally obligated to make the monthly payments due to a child support order, alimony order or something else of this nature.

The Social Security Administration also notifies those whose benefits have been garnished that they must contact the court that officially issued the garnishment order. That is to say, no legal appeal can be made to the SSA directly. They simply follow the court order. The only way to have that lifted is to have the order removed, at which time full benefits will be reinstated.

So, if your spouse is still bound to send you a monthly alimony payment and is refusing to do so, even though he or she is collecting Social Security benefits, you may be able to have the payments taken out of those benefits and sent directly to you. Make sure you know all of the legal steps that are needed to get this process started.

Source: SSA, "Can my Social Security benefits be garnished for alimony, child support or restitution?," accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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