Can Financial Aid Be Garnished for Child Support?

By Mary Jane Freeman

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If you owe back child support, garnishment of your wages may be in your near future. Generally, this occurs when a parent is under court order to pay child support and fails to make timely payments. The court can authorize his employer to withhold, or garnish, a portion of each paycheck for the unpaid balance. But if you receive financial aid for college, these funds are typically off-limits to garnishment. Funds received from the federal government, such as the Pell Grant and Direct Loans, are exempt from garnishment, but financial aid provided by the state may be eligible for seizure if your state permits garnishment of state funds.

Federal Financial Aid Typically Protected

Generally, financial aid provided by the federal government, including the Pell Grant, Perkins Loans and Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, cannot be garnished to pay your past-due child support debt. On the other hand, if you owe federal taxes or you have defaulted on a federal student loan, these funds may be up for grabs to pay those debts.

Other Considerations

Although federal financial aid may not be garnished for child support, other federal benefits, such as Social Security benefits, may be. Also, if you deposit federal financial aid funds in your personal bank account, the money may be garnished as a result of a child support order. If this happens, inform the bank that the funds are exempt from garnishment under federal law and request their release if the account is frozen. If the bank refuses, you may have to pursue the matter in court.