Many people in the Commonwealth of Virginia are required by court order to financially support children and have been unable to keep up with the court ordered payments. In such cases, the Commissioner of the State Department of Social Services may cause an order to issue that attaches to property and income owed to the debtor by a third person and requires that such property or income be turned over to the Commonwealth in satisfaction of the past due child support. There is a specific statute, Section 63.2-1929, which discusses this issue in relationship to personal injury cases in Virginia.
The operative sentence is as follows:
The orders to withhold and to deliver shall take priority over all other debts and creditors under state law of such debtor including the proceeds or anticipated proceeds of a personal injury or wrongful death award or settlement except that the Department’s lien shall be inferior to those liens created under Section 8.01-66.2 or Section 8.01-66.9, any statutory right of subrogation accruing to a health insurance provider, and the lien of the attorney representing the injured person in the personal injury or wrongful death action. (Emphasis added).
The two statutory sections cited are laws giving doctors and other medical providers a lien for a least part of their charges, up to $750 for most doctors, $200 for an ambulance, and $2,500 for a hospital, and also give the Commonwealth liens for its services such as Medicaid and services provided by Commonwealth operated hospitals like the hospital at the University of Virginia. What this means in a typical personal injury case is that the lawyer gets the fee he has earned, the doctors get a lien for the minimum amounts as noted above, and the child support lien gets the rest until the whole lien is satisfied. In many cases this means that a person in a personal injury case will receive no funds at all from the settlement proceeds with the entire net proceeds going to the back child support lien. The Commonwealth can negotiate these liens but often takes a very hard line.
Therefore, if an injured person with a claim owes back child support, the Commissioner may notify the person’s attorney or the insurance company paying the proceeds that there is a back child support. If that happens, then that back child support may have to be paid first, in its entirety, before the injured person gets anything.
If you are injured, and have a claim, and also owe back child support, then be sure you notify your attorney.