If I owe $15,000 for child support and receive a personal injury settlement, can child support take my money?

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Family Law, Florida


L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding a personal injury settlement and past due child support for $15,000.00.  Your question is basically whether or not a personal injury settlement is treated as income.  Each state sets forth their own regulations regarding caring for a minor, custody disputes, and child support.  But generally speaking, a personal injury settlement is viewed as income.  When you are being paid by annuities during a settlement, a personal injury settlement is considered income to the child support obligor under the state’s guidelines.   

If you will be receiving periodic annuity payments, these payments should be prorated over years as income for the child.  The court will support this payment arrangement, because it is in the best interest of the child.  A structured settlement is viewed as income because it serves to replace the loss of income you might have due to the injury that was involved in the personal injury settlement.  A structured settlement is also seen as income because it is fund from any source derived, which is the most basic definition of income.  Given that this money will more than likely be viewed as income, it will most certainly affect your child support in arrears. 

There are even court cases that held the father’s pain and suffering from an injury, to which the father is ultimately compensated for in the personal injury settlement is also deemed income.  The settlement amount determined to be income is not limited to the amount received for medical bills and loss of earnings.  The entire settlement is considered income.  There have been some cases that held a lump sum settlement payment was not income, because it is an extraordinary, non-recurring payment.  But not all cases have concluded the same with regard to this issue. 

You may want to contact a family law attorney or even your personal injury attorney to discuss the settlement and the possibility of the money going straight towards child support payments.  However, even if it is not considered income, you will need to represent to the judge your current financial state, which means that you could not hide these funds during child custody and support hearings.


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