Sykes v Bank of America, 723 F.3d 399 (2d Cir. 2013)

Sack, Hall, Livingston, Circuit Judges

In a pro se action the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that SSI benefits are not attachable for child support. The Court ruled that SSI benefits are exempt because they do not constitute monies received in remuneration for employment.

The pro se claimant, whose bank account was frozen pursuant to an order of the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), argued that the SSI funds in his account were exempt from execution under 42 U.S.C. §407. The Court agreed, finding that the exception to §407 found in 42 U.S.C. §659 was not applicable to SSI benefits.

Section 659 of the Child Support Enforcement Act provides that notwithstanding any other protections, including §407, monies based on remuneration from employment are subject to legal process to enforce child support obligations.  The Second Circuit joined other circuits in holding that because SSI payments are a form of public assistance unrelated to the recipient's earnings or employment, they are not subject to legal process under § 659(a).  According to the Court of Appeals, "...SSI benefits are assistance for those who cannot shoulder employment.” Id at 405.



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