If you owe child support and you are entitled to a personal injury settlement from an insurance company, does the government have the right to take some or all of your settlement to satisfy your back child support? Can they take it from third party liability recovery or from your first party UIM/UM insurance?
Under Arizona Revised Statute 25-505
"A. The department or its agent may issue a limited income withholding order to any employer, payor or other holder of a nonperiodic or lump sum payment that is owed or held for the benefit of an obligor...
E. For the purposes of this section, "lump sum payment" includes:
10. Personal injury awards.
Thus, this statute gives the authority to the Arizona Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to collect against a victim's injury settlement to satisfy child support arrears. The mechanism by which DCSE collects against a insurance settlement is called Limited Income Withholding Order, LIWO, and it is the same procedure that DCSE uses to collect against other sources, such as federal or state tax refunds.
The biggest issue as of now is notice. Exactly what obligation does the personal attorney have to investigate the existence of child support liens, particularly if the victim is unaware of them. In this regard, Arizona has joined Child Support Lien Network, which is a third party vendor, to get settlement information directly from insurance companies regarding potential insurance benefit and payment disbursements.
This area of lien law, unlike federal, statutory, and medical providers liens, is still relatively new and untested. Thus, it is not clear what the exact procedure is for notice and an attorneys' responsibility in resolving child support arrears. It does seem, however, that the Arizona Department of Economic Security and the Arizona Attorney General Office, do act reasonably in resolving these matters.