Is Workers’ Compensation Taken Out for Child Support?

Understand how child support is deducted from workers’ comp

By Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 29, 2023

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“Workers’ compensation is a law that allows for people who are employees to receive benefits when they’ve been injured at work,” says Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney Alfred J. Carlson

Every state has its own workers’ compensation system, and requirements vary from state to state. In general, workers’ compensation benefits help cover medical bills and lost wages resulting from an employee’s work-related injuries. 

If you are obligated to pay child support and were injured in a workplace accident, you may be wondering if your workers’ comp benefits will be used for child support payments.  

The answer is yes. Although rules vary from state to state, you must still pay child support if you’re receiving workers’ comp. Child support will be taken out of your workers’ compensation.  

This article will overview how child support and workers’ comp work. It’s important to speak with a workers’ comp lawyer if you are concerned about your ability to pay child support based on the amount of your workers’ comp.  

What is Child Support? 

All parents have an obligation to provide for their children’s health and wellbeing. Some parents provide this support in the context of marriage or cohabitation. Other parents are unmarried or have divorced or separated and arrange child support outside a marital relationship. 

For unmarried, divorced, or separated parents, child custody arrangements determine which parent has custody. Often, one parent will have primary legal custody and is called the child’s custodian.  

The custodian is primarily responsible for providing for the child’s health, education, and day-to-day needs. However, the other noncustodial parent still has obligations to support their child or minor financially. This support takes the form of child support payments.  

Child custody arrangements are determined at child custody hearings, typically in specialized family courts. At the end of the hearing, the presiding judge will issue a court order setting the custody arrangement between the parents. The custody arrangement will include child support.  

Child custody works differently depending on where you live.  

In Pennsylvania, for example, “If an employee has a child support obligation but is in [arrears on the payments], the employer and workers’ compensation insurance carrier has to pay that child support directly from any award or settlement of the workers’ comp claim,” says Carlson. 

“If you’re an injured employee in Pennsylvania and you owe child support… you can anticipate that the amount of the child support will be deducted from your settlement by the insurance company and paid back to the child support authorities directly,” he says.  

How Much Child Support Can Be Taken Out of Workers’ Compensation Payments? 

To determine how much will come out of your workers’ comp for child support, two things have to be calculated: 

  • How much you’ll receive in workers’ comp 
  • How much you owe in child support 

Both of these amounts are highly specific to your situation and the state law where you live

In most states, medical benefits under workers’ comp are uncapped. This means that your medical bills will be covered regardless of the medical treatment you need after a workplace injury.  

Lost wage payments under workers’ comp are generally calculated based on the employee’s average weekly wage (AWW) or what the employee made on average before the workplace injury. Every state has a formula for calculating AWW (for example, the average amount for the 13 weeks before the incident).  

Once AWW is calculated, a certain percentage of AWW is used for workers’ comp payments. In many states, workers comp equals 65% of an employee’s average wage. In other states, it’s as high as 80%. So, for example, if you made an average of $1,200/week, your workers’ comp for lost wages would be $780/week in a state where the cap is 65%. 

The amount of workers’ comp also varies based on the severity of your injuries and whether you accept monthly payments or a lump sum settlement. It’s essential to speak with a lawyer in your area to understand the exact amount you’re entitled to.  

Like workers’ comp, the amount of child support varies by state law and individual circumstances. Generally, states consider a few core factors

  • The needs of the child (healthcare, education, daily expenses) 
  • The financial situations of the custodial and noncustodial parents 
  • The child’s living situation and routines 

Can Child Support Payments Be Reduced While Collecting Worker’s Compensation? 

Yes, your child support payments can be reduced while you’re on workers’ comp. When determining child support payments, judges look at various factors, including the parent’s income and financial situation. 

If a parent’s financial situation changes substantially—as in some workers’ comp situations—the amount of child support can be adjusted to reflect the new circumstances. All changes in child support have to be approved by a judge. 

If you cannot meet the child support payments while on workers’ comp, you can request a child support modification. Specifically, you can request a downward modification that brings your payments to a lower amount.  

It’s important to act quickly if you are unable to pay your current child support amount. Speaking with a lawyer about your situation is often the best course of action. 

Questions for a Workers’ Comp Attorney 

The laws related to workers’ compensation claims and child support can be complicated and fact-specific. Consider speaking with an attorney about your workers’ compensation case as soon as possible. 

Many workers’ comp attorneys provide free consultations to hear the facts of your case. These meetings allow you to get sound legal advice and to decide if the attorney and law firm meets your needs. 

To see if an attorney is a good fit, ask informed questions such as: 

  • What are your legal fees? 
  • Do you charge on a contingency fee basis? 
  • How much money can I expect in my workers’ compensation settlement? 
  • How is the amount of my workers’ comp payments calculated? 
  • How much do I have to pay in child support?  
  • Can my child support payments be modified? 

Look for a workers’ compensation attorney in the Super Lawyers directory to help with workers’ comp issues.

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