When trying to determine the answer to this question, it is first important to distinguish between the two types of disability benefits an individual can potentially receive:
1) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
2) Social Security Disability (SSD).
In order to qualify for both SSI and SSD benefits, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s disability criteria. However, SSI is “means-tested,” meaning you must have limited income and resources, in addition to a disability, to be eligible. It is given to individuals to bring them to a minimum subsistence level.
SSD, on the other hand, is a non-means tested benefit, and is given as a replacement for lost income due to a disability. These SSD funds are due to contributions made based on your own earnings, or those of your spouse or your parents. For more of an overview on the two programs, visit the Social Security Administration’s page at https://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/overview-disability.htm.
How the Difference Impacts Child Support
The general rule is that SSI income is NOT included in child support calculations. Therefore, if a non-custodial parent is totally disabled and is truly indigent and living solely on SSI benefits, without the ability to generate any other income, there will be no child support obligation. However, a court should analyze whether the parent is earning, or has an ability to earn, additional income. If so, a child support award should be ordered taking into account this additional income (and the SSI income should not be considered when making the child support calculation).
Regarding SSD income, the general rule is that SSD income IS included in child support calculations. Because it is considered a replacement for income that is lost due to disability, it is counted as gross income when calculating child support.
This information is for general purposes only, it is not meant to be legal advice. To get advice about your specific circumstances, you should contact a child support lawyer.