Q:

Can a former spouse have your Social Security payments garnished to collect alimony?

A:

Quick Answer

Social Security benefit checks can be garnished to collect alimony, advises the Social Security Administration. Although state laws vary in what constitutes a valid order for garnishment, the Administration is legally required to garnish monthly benefits if ordered to do so by the court.

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Full Answer

Only continuing and current monthly payments are subject to garnishment, explains the Social Security Administration. The Administration cannot make retroactive garnishments of benefits that have already been received. Social Security recipients cannot appeal garnishment of benefits; however, benefit recipients who disagree with the benefit garnishment should contact an attorney.

Delinquent alimony payments are routed through the national Court Ordered Garnishment System, according to Bankrate. The amount of the garnishment depends on the state in which the garnishment order was issued; it may be the maximum under that state’s law or the maximum provided under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

There are limited reasons why Social Security benefits can be garnished, notes Bankrate. While financial creditors and banks cannot garnish Social Security benefits, the federal government is entitled under law to garnish benefits for repayment of certain debts. These debts include federal income taxes and student loans, child support and nontax debt owed to federal agencies. The government can also garnish benefits to pay defaulted federal home loans and some types of civil penalties.

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