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How Do Social Security Payments Affect a Non-Custodial Parent's Child Support Obligation?

The answer is, "It depends." Whether Social Security payments received by an individual affect a non-custodial parent's child support calculation depends on the nature of the Social Security benefits received. Specifically, it depends whether the Social Security benefits are "means-tested" or "non-means tested."

"Means tested" benefits mean that eligibility is determined on the basis of the income or resources of the recipient (See Burns v. Edwards, 367 N.J. Super. 29 (App. Div. 2004). "Non-means tested" benefits mean that eligibility for such benefits is not determined on the basis of the recipient's income or resources. "Means-tested" benefits are not factored in to the child support calculation, whereas "non-means tested" benefits are not.

For example, if a disabled child is receiving Social Security Supplemental Income ("SSI") benefits, which are based on the child's disability and the custodial parent's minimal income, such "means tested" benefits are not deducted from the non-custodial parent's child support obligation. That is, it is not fair to take away from the child benefits based on the child's own disability and intended to bring the child to a minimum subsistence level.

Social Security Disability ("SSD") benefits, however, are designed to replace income lost because an employee is disabled and unable to work. Thus, SSD payments are a substitute for earned income, and may be utilized as income when calculating child support per the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.

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