Child Support Issues in NC Workers’ Comp Claims

NC WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND CHILD SUPPORT
Child support is frequently one of the tricky hidden issues in a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim. Under North Carolina law, “no claim for compensation under (the Workers’ Compensation Act) shall be assignable, and all compensation and claims therefor shall be exempt from all claims of creditors and from taxes.” NCGS § 97-21. However this provision does not apply to child support payments, which are not viewed by the North Carolina courts as “debts.”

Garnishment of NC Workers’ Comp Payments for Child Support.

Workers’ compensation payments are included as income for the purpose of determining the presumptive level of child support. Workers’ compensation awards or settlements can also be considered in determining the amount of support. An injured employee who begins drawing workers’ compensation, which is at best a one-third reduction in gross pay, should consider petitioning the Court to reduce their child support obligation in accordance with their diminished income. Generally, up to 40% of and injured workers weekly compensation payments can be withheld or “garnished” and applied to meet child support obligations.

Lien for Past Due NC Child Support

Under certain circumstances, NCGS § 58-3-185(a) creates a lien against a NC workers’ compensation claim for past due child support. The lien applies to nonrecurring payments (like settlements) greater than $3000. While the statute clearly sets out the precise conditions where the lien applies, insurance companies and employers frequently do not understand the requirements, and may insist that any outstanding child support obligation be satisfied from the settlement proceeds. There is no limitation on what percentage of a workers’ compensation settlement must be applied to the child support obligation so great care should be taken in settling workers’ compensation claims involving child support obligations. It is sometimes possible to negotiate the amount of the child support lien, particularly if the workers’ compensation claim is denied, and the alternative may be that nobody gets anything.

For more information about Child Support Issues in NC Workers’ Comp Claims contact Kevin Bunn, a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney located in Cary, NC. Call or email for your free consultation with a NC workers’ comp lawyer.

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