Flash Point: Child’s Receipt of Dependent Social Security Benefits did not Entitle Father to a Setoff Against Medical Support Arrearage

A father who became permanently and completely disabled after a car accident challenged the trial court’s ruling that the child’s receipt of a lump sum payment of approximately $13,000 as retroactive social security dependant payment should offset $3,967 that he owed towards the child’s medical expenses.  The Father also appealed the trial court’s ruling that did not allow  termination of his obligation to contribute to the minor child’s ongoing medical obligation.  The Father’s child support obligation had previously been terminated.  In reaching its decision, the Fifth District analyzed the Supreme Court case of In re the Marriage of Henry, which held that a social security dependant benefit earned by the noncusotdial parent, because it was paid with contributions form the parents’ earnings, satisfied the parent’s support obligations.  However, the Court as to medical expenses, distinguished Henry, and held that unlike a fixed monthly child support payment intended to provide for ordinary expenses needed for the support and maintenance of a dependant child, uncovered and extraordinary medical expenses are less certain and for which it is difficult to budget costs.  Therefore, the dependant benefit was not meant to cover unpredictable costs such as uncovered health expenses.  The Court also noted that the social security benefit that he received was more than he actually earned in the workforce, so he should continue to be responsible for ongoing uncovered medical expenses.  In re the Marriage of Rash 2010 WL 5387565.


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