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My Ex is Misusing Our Child’s Social Security Benefits

As divorce attorneys with offices throughout the Atlanta Metro area, it is common for us to receive calls from frustrated non-custodial parents who believe their ex-spouses or co-parents are misusing child support or other support payments, like certain Social Security payments. Although Georgia law does not recognize a legal action whereby a parent obligated to pay child support may require a custodial parent to account for how child support is used, if you suspect your ex-spouse or co-parent of misusing your child's Social Security benefits, there are steps you can take to report and remedy that abuse.

When benefits, such as survivors' or disability benefits, are due to a minor child, the Social Security Administrating (SSA) will designate a representative payee to receive and disburse those funds for the benefit of the child or beneficiary. Often times, the representative designated by the SSA is the child's custodial parent or legal guardian. Once designated as a representative payee, a custodial parent must adhere to the rules set out by the SSA that govern the conduct and decisions of representative payees. These rules are designed to prevent represented payees from misusing a beneficiary's funds or taking financial advantage of a minor beneficiary. Thus, if a representative payee or custodial parent misuses benefits paid for the benefit of a minor child, the Social Security Administration will intervene. Among other things, the SSA requires representative payees to use funds received to:

  • Make sure the beneficiary's day-to-day needs for food and shelter are met.
  • Once a beneficiary's basic needs are met, a representative may then use funds to cover any of the beneficiary's medical and dental care that is not covered by health insurance.
  • Representatives may also use funds to pay for a minor child's personal needs, such as clothing and recreation once basic needs have been met.
  • Once a beneficiary's basic and personal needs have been met, representatives must save any remaining funds, preferably in an interest-bearing account or U.S. Savings Bonds.

Not only must representative payees adhere to certain use rules as exemplified above, they must also adhere to reporting obligations. Each year, representative payees must submit an annual worksheet detailing how the auxiliary benefits were used. For a complete recitation of the rules and guidelines applicable to representative payees, see After reviewing these guidelines, if you believe your ex-spouse or co-parent is misusing your child's Social Security benefits, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office.


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