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Child Support Lien

WORKER’S COMP PAYS CHILD SUPPORT

Worker’s comp pays child support. In this post,  I explain  how a child support lien affects a worker’s comp claim. In Missouri, The Child Support Enforcement The State agency places a child support lien  on a Worker’s Comp claim for all amounts 30 days overdue.  The work comp claim contains the social security number of the claimant. The State becomes aware  of the claim and the debt because social security numbers are cross-checked by State computers and flagged.  The State places a lien on all worker’s comp claims when the claimant owes child support more than 30 days past due.  Of course, this only applies to child support which is paid through the State Child Support Enforcement Division.

Missouri Child Support Division collects delinquent child support by withholding Workers’ Compensation benefits.

A LIEN MUST BE PAID

A lien for child support must be paid  out of the “final award”. When  the State places a lien on a worker’s compensation claim, the lien takes priority over the worker’s payment. The judge or lawyers  determined the final award  at the end of the claim.  Usually, the lawyers negotiate a settlement.  If not, a  judge decides the claim.    The injured worker does not receive any money before resolution of the child support lien.  The child support lien may not be avoided.  Lawyers representing the injured worker, and the employer’s lawyer  both have a duty to pay any proper lien. If the lawyers do not pay the child support out of the final award, the State of Missouri can sue the lawyers for the same amount.

PROCEDURE FOR HANDLING THE FUNDS

Following approval of  the worker’s comp claim, the worker’s comp insurer mails the check to the lawyer’s office.  One of two procedures occurs:

OPTION ONE: The insurer makes the final check payable to 3 parties:

  • Worker’s attorney;
  • Division of Child Support Enforcement; and
  • Worker.
  • Worker and lawyer sign the check.
  • Worker’s lawyer snail mails the actual settlement check, plus a lawyer trust account check in the amount of the child support owed, to Department of Child Support Enforcement in Jefferson City.
  •   Child Support Enforcement in Jefferson City  signs the back of the check and mails original settlement check back to lawyer.

This option delays  the payment to the employee.

OPTION TWO: Liberman Law Firm prefers to  have a 2 checks issued:

  • A check payable to  child support only, and
  • A settlement check  payable to worker and worker’s attorney after  deduction of child support.

Hey! Why did the insurance company put my  lawyer’s name on the final check?  Good question.  The lawyer has a lien. Same as child support.   Lawyers charge a  contingency fee in work comp cases.  Usually 25% percent of the final check.   The Missouri Supreme Court requires contingency contracts to be in writing, signed by the client.     I will talk about the lawyer fees in a separate post.

WHAT IF THE CHILD SUPPORT OWED IS MORE THAN THE AMOUNT OF THE FINAL AWARD?

You ask another good question. Frequently the child support owed is greater than the amount of the award. Don’t despair. The   injured worker  and Child Support  receive  equal amounts.  The formula below used  insures this.

  • First,  lawyer fees and costs advanced are deducted from the final award.
  • Second,  divide the remaining money in half. It looks like this:
  1. Final award                       $10,000.00
  2. 25% lawyer fee                  –   2,500.00    (lets say the lawyer has no costs advanced on the claim)
  3. This leaves                              7,500.00
  4. $7,500.00 divided in 2 = $3,750.00, so,
  5.  Child Support gets            $3,750.00
  6. Worker gets                         $3,750.00

Note:  Medical bills for worker’s comp treatment, and temporary total disability payments are not subject to child support withholding. For more on treatment of injuries, see my post on medical bills and treatment.

MORE THAN ONE PARENT CLAIMS CHILD SUPPORT, WHAT THEN?

The injured worker receives the same amount of money. The other parents split the the remaining half.

In the example above, Worker still receives  $3,750.00.  Child support receives $3,750.00, and it is up to Child Support Enforcement to figure out which parent receives how much of the $3,750.00.   The number of parents don’t change the worker’s share.

WILL OUT OF STATE CHILD SUPPORT FIND ME?

You betcha.  Missouri  honors child support liens from other states.  The other state  must file its notice of child support lien before the end of the Missouri case.   The attorney does not search 50 states for child support liens. If there is an outstanding child support amount from another state, but that state neglects to file a lien, it will not be honored.

CONCLUSION

Past due child support owed will be paid if a lien is properly filed by the State.  Full payment of the child support lien happens, unless the child support  owed is more than 50% of the injured worker’s net proceeds.  In that case, the injured worker and Child Support Enforcement will receive equal amounts.

For a discussion of other liens, see the next post.

Contact me with your questions!

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