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Misapplication of SSI/SSDI Benefits

Even thought California laws are clear on the application of SSI/SSDI benefits in child support cases, California courts have routinely allowed the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to "double dip." That is, DCSS will not apply the amount of SSI/SSDI that is paid directly to the custodial parent for a child's benefit toward the court-ordered child support amount.  In this case, the disabled person pays the full amount of child support, even though the custodial parent also receives some or all of that amount from SSI/SSDI payments.  Moreover, in many cases the benefit amount paid by the SSA for the benefit of the children is higher than the child support order.  Yet DCSS will not apply those over payments towards any arrears that may be owed by the noncustodial parent.  CAFC has received many calls from disabled persons on SSI/SSDI who have encountered these problems.

A trial court in Kern County finally upheld the law and held the DCSS accountable for this practice.  The court's decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the 5th Appellate District.  See In re the Marriage of DANNY C. and SHANNON HOPKINS, 5th DCA F055130. This case was just published on April 24, 2009.

This case brings great hope for anyone who is disabled with a child support order.  Because this is a published opinion and new case law, many will have the right to have their cases readdressed.  If you are a disabled person or you know of a disable person who has been wronged in California then please let them know about this case. Some cases may even be entitled to a refund for over payment.

For more information about SSI in Family Law, here is an excellent paper on SSI for family law attorneys

As always, much more needs to be done. We are asking everyone who enjoys the protection and freedoms they have — because of these men and women who proudly served and sacrificed for our nation — to donate as much as possible so that CAFC can continue to help these service men and women and their families.