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Child Support Liens: Impact on Workers’ Compensation Settlement Awards

In Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation lump sum settlements must account for existing child support arrears.  Injured workers are typically required to sign a Child Support Affidavit and a lien search is required using the injured worker’s social security number to ensure that no liens exist.  Pennsylvania’s Domestic Relations statute provides the following as to child support liens and their effect on a workers’ compensation settlement award:

(f) Workers’ compensation awards. – With respect to any monetary award arising under the act of June 2, 1915 (P.L.736, No.338), known as the Workers’ Compensation Act, or the act of June 21, 1939 (P.L.566, No.284), known as The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act, no order providing for a payment shall be entered by the workers’ compensation judge unless the prevailing party or beneficiary, who is a claimant under either or both of the acts, shall provide the judge with a statement made subject to 18 Pa.C.S.

§4904 that includes the full name, mailing address, date of birth and Social Security number for the prevailing party or beneficiary who is a claimant under either or both acts. The prevailing party or beneficiary, who is a claimant under either or both of the acts shall also provide the judge with either written documentation of arrears from the Pennsylvania child support or enforcement system website or, if no arrears exist, written documentation from the website indicating no arrears.  The judge shall order payment of the lien for overdue support to the department’s State disbursement unit from the net proceeds due the prevailing party or beneficiary who is a claimant under either or both acts.  23 Pa.C.S. § 4308.1. 

However, the Domestic Relations statute does not shed any light on how out-of-state child support liens impact an in-state workers’ compensation settlement award.  Generally, a claimant is required to provide his or her attorney with written documentation of arrears from the “Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System website,” as noted above.   Yet, this website does not provide information as to whether a claimant has an existing child support order in another state.  Moreover, the question remains whether an order enforceable in another state has an effect on a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation settlement award.  The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, however, may shed some light on this issue.  It provides the following:

(a) General rule. – Except as otherwise provided in section 77A06 (relating to registration of convention support order), a support order or income-withholding order of another state or a foreign support order may be registered in this State by sending all of the following records to the appropriate tribunal in this State:

(1)  A letter of transmittal to the tribunal requesting registration and enforcement.

(2)  Two copies, including one certified copy, of the order to be registered, including any modification of the other.

(3)  A sworn statement by the person requesting registration or a certified statement by the custodian of the records showing the amount of any arrearage.

(4)  The name of the obligor and, if known:

 (i) The obligor’s address and Social Security number;

(ii) The name and address of the obligor’s employer and any other source of income of the obligor; and,

(iii) A description and the location of property of the obligor in this State not exempt from execution.

 23 Pa.C.S. §7602.  The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act further provides that “[a] registered support order issued in another state or a foreign country is enforceable in the same manner and is subject to the same procedures as an order issued by a tribunal of this state.”  23 Pa.C.S. §7603.

Another chapter of the Domestic Relations statute provides that the domestic relations section shall have the power to expedite the establishment and enforcement of support to “respond to a request for assistance from another state.”  23 Pa.C.S. §4305(12).  It further provides that the response shall “confirm the receipt of the request, the action taken and the amount of support collected” and specify any additional information that may be necessary to obtain enforcement of the child support obligation.  Id.

Therefore, when looking at the above-referenced statutory provisions together, it seems as though a child support lien from another state may affect a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation settlement award.  However, the state attempting to enforce the support order must register it in Pennsylvania in order for the above statutory provisions to take effect.  With that, it would be wise to inform clients of this possibility and urge them to be forthcoming with any information they have as to possible support orders in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.

For a confidential analysis of your workers’ compensation issues, or questions about TRC’s workers’ compensation practice area, please contact Harry W. Rosensteel, Esquire at (412) 316-8686 or [email protected], or Margaret W. Hock, Esquire at (412)316-8647 or [email protected].

Important NoticeThis information is intended for general guidance only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice.  For specific legal advice applicable to your situation, you should consult an attorney of your choice.  Although believed to be accurate when written, no guarantee of completeness or accuracy to your particular circumstances should be implied.  Laws, regulations, and court decisions in this area change frequently, and you should consult the attorney of your choice for up-to-date information.