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Does A Personal Injury Award Affect Child Support Payments?

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Child support can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. It’s not uncommon for the parties to argue about the amount of support to be paid, with the paying spouse often fretting about having sufficient funds to care for himself following the payments. This issue becomes all the more contentious when the payor receives additional income in the form of a legal settlement. In most instances, the non-custodial parent pays a set percentage of his or her income as support. However, when that non-custodial parent comes into unexpected money in the form of a personal injury settlement, he or she may be reluctant to pay a portion of it out as child support.

Personal injury awards affect support payments in one of two ways. First, the personal injury award may be considered income for purposes of paying prospective child support. Let’s assume that the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay 20% of his or her net income as child support. Thereafter, he or she receives $100,000 in net income as part of a personal injury settlement. A plain reading of the non-custodial parent’s obligation requires him or her to pay an additional $20,000 in child support. Unless there is a provision exempting additional income (or additional sources of income), a non-custodial parent will almost certainly have to pay support out of a personal injury settlement.

The second way in which a personal injury settlement affects a child support award is through the satisfaction of an outstanding child support judgment. If the non-custodial parent owes child support, his or her settlement may be seized to satisfy the arrearage. In Illinois, this is true regardless of statutes exempting the first $15,000 of a personal injury award from collections. The courts prioritize the welfare of children and the entirety of a personal injury award may be claimed to pay off past-due child support.

Personal injury awards may still be excepted from collection by court order. Whether a judge would grant such a request would depend on the recipient’s financial needs and the financial welfare of the recipient’s child. It may be a longshot to request a court ordered exception to a legal settlement, but it may also be the recipient’s only option.

Ultimately, the best bet is to avoid child support arrearages in the first place. States prioritize the collection of past-due support and, ultimately, arrearages will be paid. If a payor is going through a divorce and expects a legal settlement to arrive in the future, he or she should work closely with his or her divorce lawyer Chicago IL relies on to accept the future settlement from payment.

Joshua Stern is the founder and manager of the Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern, a boutique divorce and family law firm with offices in Evanston and Chicago.

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