Questions about the impact of personal injury settlements on child support payments sometimes arise between parents who were once married to one another. Legal guidelines can be confusing when these two areas of the law overlap.
Personal Injury Settlement and Child Support Claims
Here’s a common example of how these two issues can collide:
- A man is badly injured in a car accident by a negligent driver.
- He wins over a million dollars in damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
- He already owes child support and is behind by several payments.
Will his personal injury settlement be garnished in part to pay the overdue child support payments? Ethically and legally, yes.
State Power to Levy
Under the law, the state has the power to attach the parent’s delinquent child support payments to his property, including a personal injury settlement. Under most circumstances, the process would proceed similar to this:
- If the custodial spouse has asked for legal assistance regarding child support enforcement, the legal process should already be in place to intercept his personal injury insurance settlement.
- In this scenario, the state would notify the noncustodial parent that he owes child support.
- If the noncustodial parent’s outstanding obligation is on the legal record, the garnishment process might be initiated by an income deduction notification. In that event, the noncustodial parent and the insurance company paying out the claim should be notified of the statutory lien.
- After the insurance company receives notice of the lien, they will likely contact the noncustodial parent’s attorney.
- The attorney should then authorize payment of their client’s funds to fulfill his obligation under the lien.
Personal Injury Insurance Settlements and Child Support Matters
In some states, the lawyer must have actual knowledge of a third-party lien or court-ordered claim to funds in escrow to prompt the payment of the client’s obligation. In that scenario, notice would arrive as an income deduction notice by the state’s child support enforcement office.
Prospective Perfection of a Child Support Lien
The lawyer’s obligation in the handling of settlement funds when a potential child support lien or claim is asserted is to make sure their client follows the law. The attorney’s primary duty in this scenario is to offer vigorous client representation. It’s the state’s duty to perform required investigation and to notify the law firm of the presence of a valid child support lien.
If you have questions or concerns about child support payments and how they may affect a personal injury settlement, contact a Charlottesville child support attorney or a personal injury lawyer.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from MartinWren P.C. for their insight into personal injury settlements and child support payments.