In the landmark Peace v. Peace ruling, Arizona’s Court of Appeals decided a controversial custodial parent dilemma: what is an Arizona court’s authority when one parent diverts children’s Social Security payments to themselves?
Though Mother had primary custody in this case, Father directed the $362 monthly SSA benefits away from her as opposed to going to Mother as the primary custodial parent for the support of their children.
This prompted Mother to file a petition against him which ultimately set precedent across the state on these matters moving forward.
Contempt of Court for Taking Children’s Social Security Benefits
The Arizona Court of Appeals faced a critical challenge – to determine if state law or federal law should prevail in the dispute between Father and Mother over their children’s social security payments.
The trial court had issued a judgment against Father after finding him guilty of wrongful diversion, as well as contempt for his actions.
Meanwhile, Federal Law allows parents discretion on how they spend such benefits; however it remained unclear whether an Arizona judge could direct what must be done with those funds.
With this complex question at hand, the appellate judges embarked upon resolving who would ultimately control these matters concerning social security monies intended for the financial support of minors.
The Arizona Court of Appeals determined the comprehensive federal law governing children’s social security benefits preempted state law.
As such, they held that father could not be found in contempt and mother was unable to attain a judgment against him for wrongfully diverting funds from her due to his lack of authority under state court regulations.
Ultimately, this decision affirms Congress’ intent to control how these social security payments are managed.
Child Support Deviation: A Possible Solution to a Diversion of Children’s Social Security Benefits
The Arizona Court of Appeals did not address whether another solution may rectify the problem of a non-custodial parent divering children’s social security benefits in Arizona.
Simply put, a parent may ask a judge to order a non-custodial parent to pay more child support every month than the Arizona Child Support Guidelines would indicate if the non-custodial parent is diverting the children’s social security benefits from the custodial parent to himself or herself
The Arizona Court of Appeals likely did not address the issue of whether a court could deviate child support under these circumstances because neither party may have raised that argument at the trial court level.
Hildebrand Law | Arizona Child Support Attorneys
If you have questions about taking children’s social security benefits in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child support and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child support and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona child support or family law case around today.
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