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Kentucky Court Rules Child Support Payments may be Offset by Benefits Paid to Child as the Father’s Dependant

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The Kentucky Supreme Court recently handed down a verdict outlining the ability of a party to offset child support obligations by the amount of social security benefits that a child receives as a dependent of a retiree. The case demonstrates both the complexity of the system for determining ongoing child support awards as well as highlights the discretion that family court judges have in determining child support awards.

The case of C.D.G. v. N.J.S. involved a woman who had an affair with a co-worker and then had a child as a result of the affair, but neither the co-worker nor the woman’s husband were aware of the co-worker’s paternity of the child until years later when the woman filed for a divorce from her husband and filed a paternity suit against the co-worker. The woman and the co-worker agreed to a $775 monthly child support payment. Several years later, the co-worker applied for retirement benefits and found that the child was entitled to $1,256 a month in social security benefits as his dependent. Administrative issues resulted in a two-year delay of the payments to the child, and so the child was eventually paid a $23,780 lump-sum award for the nearly two years of missed payments.

In the action before the Supreme Court, the co-worker asked for his $775 child support payment to be offset by the social security benefits the child was now receiving (meaning he would pay nothing in child support) and that the mother of the child return the nearly two years of child support payments she had been receiving on behalf of the child and which were now more than covered by the lump-sum payment.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the trial court was correct in ruling that the co-worker could offset his child support payments with the retirement benefits. The Supreme Court also ruled that it was proper for the trial court to require the woman to pay back the child support payments paid to her on behalf of the child.

While a family court generally will not retroactively modify a child support order, the court found that this situation was unique in that the child was actually owed the retirement benefits from the beginning of the period in question, and now had a lump-sum payment covering the entire period, which also meant there were funds available to reimburse the co-worker for the payment.

It is important to note that this decision does not necessarily require a trial court to offset child support payments by retirement benefits that a child receives as a dependent (or disability benefits for that matter); rather, a trial court has wide discretion in how it chooses to calculate a child support award.

Contact the law firm of John Ruby and Associates for a consultation on your Kentucky child support case by calling 502-895-2626.