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.
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 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:
- Final award $10,000.00
- 25% lawyer fee – 2,500.00 (lets say the lawyer has no costs advanced on the claim)
- This leaves 7,500.00
- $7,500.00 divided in 2 = $3,750.00, so,
- Child Support gets $3,750.00
- Worker gets $3,750.00
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.
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!