Cassello v. Cassello
Supplemental Social Security income benefits may be exempt from wage withholding and garnishment to meet child support and alimony payments. After the defendant husband successfully applied for Social Security disability benefits, child support enforcement issued a wage withholding order, to garnish the husband's disability benefits. The husband objected that the benefits were exempt from wage withholding and garnishment. The court observed that the husband is the recipient of Social Security disability benefits and that 42 United States Code §401 governs Social Security disability benefits. A separate statute, 42 U.S.C. §1381, governs supplemental Social Security income. The husband is correct, wrote the court, that supplemental Social Security benefits are exempt from wage withholding and garnishment. Supplemental Social Security income recipients do not enjoy high incomes and possess few opportunities to raise their levels of income, because of their ages or disabilities. Subtracting child support would reduce recipients' incomes below the guaranteed minimum income level, pursuant to Department of Human Services v. Young, a 1990 Tennessee decision. Because the husband receives Social Security disability benefits, the husband's benefits are not exempt from wage withholding or garnishment to meet child support and alimony orders. "[G]iven the legislative intent of §407, as well as the position that other state courts have held," wrote the court, "social security disability benefits are subject to garnishment for the purpose of fulfilling familial obligations."