In Maryland, it is all too common for an ex-spouse not to pay his or her alimony obligation. When a party accrues an alimony arrears, the payee or recipient spouse can file a motion to obtain a judgment for the alimony arrears. A money judgment for alimony arrears can be enforced in many ways, including garnishing the ex-spouse’s wages or bank account balance. If the ex-spouse is retired and receiving Social Security benefits, up to 65% of his or her Social Security benefits can be garnished.
Stewart Sutton has helped several clients obtain judgments for alimony arrears and then enforced the money judgments by garnishing the ex-spouses’ Social Security benefits. A judgment for child support arrears also can be enforced by garnishing the parent’s Social Security benefits.
For one client, Mr. Sutton obtained a series of alimony arrears judgments over the course of several years in the amounts of $112,000, $100,000, and $44,000. These judgments are being enforced by garnishing the ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits.
The garnishment of Social Security benefits is an important tool to enforce alimony and child support judgments against judgment debtors who are broke, because almost everyone will receive Social Security benefits when they retire. In fact, the judgment debtor is usually surprised that his or her Social Security benefits are garnished to satisfy an alimony or child support arrears judgments.
Strangely, most family lawyers in Maryland are unaware that Social Security benefits can be garnished to enforce an alimony or child support judgment. According to Mr. Sutton’s contacts at the Social Security Administration, he is one of the few attorneys in Maryland that represents clients in the garnishment of Social Security benefits to enforce alimony arrears judgments.