I am writing today about a law that I feel puts the disabled at a huge disadvantage and that has affected my and my child’s life greatly because of my disability benefit. I have read that other states are now changing these laws and I hope Pennsylvania will be next.
I’ve been disabled for 10+ years, after 10 years of being an RN, having my very first job at the age of 15. I am divorced and have one child. My issue has to do with my child support and the laws of Pennsylvania (and most other states) that govern how child support is determined for someone on SSDI.
Normally, child support is determined by combining both parent’s income and then broken down into a percentage for each parent based on their income. For example, if Mom makes $30,000 and Dad makes $70,000 then Mom is responsible for 30% and Dad is responsible for 70% and would pay that 70% to Mom in monthly child support (if mom has custody of course). In PA, with one child, the total child support would be $1116 and Dad would pay Mom $770 per month.
BUT when SSDI is involved, and the custodial parent receives a check for their dependent child, the amount of that benefit check is subtracted from the TOTAL child support before the total is broken into percentages. Of course, Mom’s income would be much lower on SSDI.
In that case, if Mom’s income is $1500 each month from SSDI and she received a check for her child for $750 each month and Dad still made the $70,000 each year, the total child support would be around $1046 and then the $750 benefit is subtracted ($296) and then Dad would be ordered to pay monthly child support of $227 based on the percentages.
How is it possible that Dad gets this huge decrease in his ordered child support because Mom is suddenly disabled???? It makes no sense!!
My monthly income is $1547 (since they don’t count the $821 as my income) and my child’s father’s income is $10,000 per month, so our combined incomes create a child support total of $1278 total child support each month.
The check I receive for my daughter is deducted from this amount leaving $457 to be paid. Her father pays $321 of this amount and the rest comes from my $1547 each month in the amount of $136 assumed by me.
If you consider the total determined monthly support amount of $1278, my daughter’s father pays $321 which is only 25% of her total support even though his income is FIVE TIMES my income!
If you consider the SSDI check I receive on her behalf and EARNED through years of hard work for my daughter to be my income and add the $136, then 74% of her support comes FROM ME !!
The way the courts have balanced this for the first few years is to allow me to ask for alimony. This is not only humiliating, it has cost me a fortune in legal fees and has created tremendous hostility in my ex-husband as he sees this as me asking for support for me. All I want is to maintain a stable home for our child.
At this point, the original alimony order has expired and I am in the middle of having the case reviewed in the family courts and the alimony ordered once again. We were only married for 5 years, so this is very unlikely. And he, of course, can afford the best of the best attorney who keeps dragging it out and having it delayed as I fall further and further behind on bills each month.
I should NOT have to be asking for alimony to maintain a home for my child. I should get the child support that is deserved and needed to care for my child without this huge expensive battle.
If you are able to help in any way, I would be so eternally grateful, as would hundreds of other parents in Pennsylvania and thousands across our country.
Here is a link to just the beginning of the language I am finding in other states’ laws http://www.childsupportguidelines.com/articles/art200011.html
Some higher court cases have determined that SSDI is earned insurance policy and the benefits paid are income replacement, so the disabled, custodial parent should count the benefit for her child as her income and support should be calculated from there. That would mean that $821 should not be deducted from the equation as shown above but should be counted as earned income by me, as her mother.
If that were the case, her monthly child support total would be $1323 according to the PA calculators. My share would be 23% and his would be 77% based on our monthly incomes.
That would mean his share would be $1018 ordered monthly automatically and mine would be $305. Most importantly, it would mean my daughter would grow up in the home I’ve created for her without the worry of not being able to afford the home.
I am praying that someone will help those of us who can not afford to help ourselves.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Leslie Ann Carlins