How a Personal Injury Award May Affect Your Child Support Agreement

If a recent injury accident resulted in you receiving a settlement for your damages, you may be wondering how that compensation might affect the amount of money you pay in child support. After all, child support is based largely on the amount of earned income of the parent. In consideration of the child’s needs (including school costs, food, medical care, clothing, and housing), any income that the support-paying parent receives, may trigger the court to increase the amount of payments. That said, not all additional income is subject to this. 

How a Judge may View the Personal Injury Award You Received

It’s important to understand that the award or settlement is not considered as one lump sum by the family court judge. Because settlements include monies for damages such as medical treatment, the portion of the award that reflects the medical bills of the injured party is not considered income. In fact, much of the settlement may not be seen as additional income. However, if there is a portion of the settlement that is intended to replace the wages that were unearned because of the individual’s injury, then that will probably be counted as regular income. For example, if the settlement was for $100,000, and $25,000 of it was to replace the wages that the person would have earned if not injured, and the rest of the award was for medical bills, pain and suffering, only the $25,000 would be counted as income. Therefore, the total amount of income considered by the judge when determining the amount of child support might not be any higher than if the individual had not been injured. Because every case is different, it is important to consult a family law attorney to be certain.

Evaluating the Needs of the Child

Of primary consideration to the family law court judge is the welfare of the child. It is the judge’s responsibility to ensure that the child’s needs are prioritized above the parents’ when making any rulings such as on child support agreements. Therefore, if you receive income via a personal injury award, your lawyer may advise you that it must be reported to the court. Not doing so could put you at risk for breaking various laws and could result in serious penalties.

Additional Considerations

It’s important to seek insight from a family law attorney about how your child support payments may be affected, because there are many factors that could impact the judge’s decision. For example, you may receive a settlement for a personal injury lawyer but at the same time you may have agreed to care for your child during recovery because you’re not able to work. This may save the other parent daycare fees and enable them to work additional hours. The judge may then hold back less of the wage portion of your injury settlement. With a family law attorney by your side to advocate on your behalf, you can ensure that your child is appropriately considered without getting taken advantage of by your former spouse.

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