Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Disabled Veteran Entitled to Full Child Support Credit for Benefits
By a MetNews Staff Writer
In a case of first impression in California, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held yesterday that a disabled veteran was entitled to a child support credit for his daughter’s derivative benefits back-payment from his Social Security Disability Insurance, even though the payment came as a six-year lump-sum and he was not in arrears.
Justice William Dato, writing for Div. One, explained that under Family Code §4504(b), a disabled, non-custodial parent’s child support payments—like those under social security disability insurance (SSDI)—are offset by any derivative payments made to the child.
Dato agreed with San Diego County Commissioner Adam Wertheimer, who rejected the intervening San Diego County Department of Child Support Services’ (DCSS) argument that the offset granted by §4504(b) only applies to the current month’s obligation and then to any arrears.
The father, a disabled U.S. Marine veteran, applied for SSDI for himself and his daughter in June 2009. The application was not approved until June 2015.
The Social Security Administration approved that application and determined that the man and his daughter were entitled to six years of back-payments. They paid the man over $61,000 and sent the daughter’s check for over $41,000 to her mother as her representative payee.
The mother did not inform the DCSS about the payments, resulting in the father overpaying his obligation for several months. Eventually, he filed a request for an order seeking an audit by DCSS and credit for the lump-sum payment.
Dato noted that Wertheimer had correctly “placed great weight on the ‘shall be credited’ language in section 4504, subdivision (b) and explained that the statute mandated credit against Father’s child support obligation.”
He also looked to the legislative intent behind the rule. He explained:
“Whereas the statute previously required credit ‘toward the amount ordered by the court to be paid for that month,’ the amended statute simply requires credit ‘toward the amount ordered by the court to be paid.’”
The jurist took this as evidence that the legislature had intended to broaden the way in which the mandatory credit could be applied. He further noted that if DCSS’s contentions were accepted it would deny the man the credit that the statute mandates.
“DCSS’s interpretation would lead to the perverse consequence of encouraging arrears by an obligor who has applied for federal benefits,” Dato stated.
Derivative Benefits First
DCSS argued that the derivative benefits paid to daughter should not be applied to the father’s child support obligations first, before any voluntary payments made by him.
Dato rejected this contention. He declared:
“We agree with the trial court that Daughter’s derivative benefit had to be credited first before crediting any child support payments Father made between June 2009 and June 2015. Any other construction would nullify our interpretation that section 4504, subdivision (b) requires credit for Daughter’s lump-sum benefit payment.”
The case is Y.H. v. M.H., 2018 S.O.S. 3521.
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