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    Family and Children

    Veterans Benefits and Child Support

    Legal matters that involve veteran’s benefits may be a cause of concern for service members and families. The following information explains what may happen to a veteran’s financial benefits if the service member is delinquent on their child support payments.

    Can veteran benefits be taken away to pay child support?

    Generally, yes. While most federal benefits, including veteran benefits, cannot be withheld, attached, garnished, or otherwise taken by a creditor to collect on a debt, child support is an exception, as is spousal maintenance (alimony). A.R.S. § 12-1539(B); 42 U.S.C. § 659

    Click here for Arizona Garnishment Information

    If veteran benefits are an individual's only source of income, does a person still have to pay child support?

    Yes. If the child’s other parent obtains a court order for child support, the service member must comply with that order even if veteran’s benefits are their only source of income.
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    Can veteran benefits be garnished like a regular paycheck to pay child support?

    two hands exchanging money
    It depends. In certain situations, the child’s other parent may get a court order to garnish the benefits as earnings (income). If the benefits are garnished as earnings, it means that Veterans Affairs will be ordered to send some of the benefits directly to the other parent. If the veteran receives:
    • Disability benefits generally cannot be garnished to pay child support.
    • None or part of military retirement benefits and disability benefits, often only the amount of military retirement that is received may be garnished to pay child support.
    • Military retirement benefits and veteran disability benefits, then the veteran's benefits may be garnished to pay child support. 42 U.S.C. § 662; 5 C.F.R. § 581.103

    Can veteran benefits be garnished as non-earnings to pay child support after they are deposited into a bank account?

    It depends. In certain situations, the other parent may get a court order to garnish the benefits as non-earnings, and in other situations they cannot. If benefits are garnished as non-earnings, it means that the bank or other financial institution where the benefits go can be ordered to take money from the account and send it to the other parent.
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    If benefits were deposited into a bank account within the last 2 months:
    • AND the account that the benefits are deposited into has the two months or more worth of benefits, then the additional amount of money may be garnished.
    • AND the account that the benefits are deposited into has less than two months worth of benefits, then the money may not be garnished as non-earnings.
    • BUT the individual transferred them into a different account, the entire amount may be garnished as non-earnings. 31 C.F.R. § 212

    If benefits cannot be garnished, can the child’s other parent still ask Veterans Affairs to send them some of the benefits?

    Yes. The other parent may ask Veterans Affairs for an “apportionment,” which means that a portion of the benefits will be sent directly to the other parent as a child support payment. 38 U.S.C. § 5307; 38 C.F.R. § 3.450 et seq

    Fill out an Apportionment Application

    How is apportionment different from garnishment?

    Two people standing beside a scale.
    Although garnishment and apportionment work the same way, garnishment is a state court process, while apportionment is an administrative process that happens entirely within Veterans Affairs. Veterans Affairs makes apportionment decisions by attempting to balance the needs of the veteran with the needs of the child. 38 C.F.R. § 3.451

    If veteran benefits cannot be garnished, and are not apportioned, what options does the other parent have if I refuse to pay child support?

    This varies based on the state the child lives in. In Arizona, they may ask the court to hold the debtor in contempt for violating the child support order. If the court holds the debtor in contempt, it may order that the delinquent parent be arrested. A.R.S. § 25-502(I); A.R.S. § 25-681
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    The other parent may also ask the Arizona Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to enforce the court’s order. Depending on how far they have fallen behind on child support payments, once DCSS gets involved, it may (among other things):
    • Issue an administrative income withholding order to deduct child support from earnings, including wages, salary, other employment compensation, pension, or other retirement benefits A.R.S. § 25-505.01
    • Report the unpaid child support to each of the credit reporting agencies, which may negatively impact credit reports and credit scores A.R.S. § 25-512
    • Suspend the debtor's driver license, professional license, and/or recreational (e.g., fishing) license A.R.S. §§ 25-517, 518
    • Seize the debtor's bank or other financial institution accounts A.R.S. § 25-521  
    • Place a lien on the debtor's property, such as a car or home, so the individual cannot sell or refinance it without paying what is owed A.R.S. § 25-516 
    • Intercept state income tax refunds and redirect them to the other parent 45 C.F.R. §303.102