Michael Jenkins first came to Legal Aid after receiving notice that his Social Security benefits were being garnished for child support payments. This didn’t make sense to him, as his son was now 36. Legal Aid investigated and discovered that the government was garnishing his benefits because of old child support arrears. However, these arrears were past the statute of limitations and no longer enforceable, so Legal Aid attorney Caroline Fehr represented Mr. Jenkins in filing a Motion to Vacate Arrears.
After filing this motion, Mr. Jenkins got good and bad news: he had been approved for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and would be receiving a lump sum to make up for the benefits he should have been receiving. However, because his benefits were still being garnished, the government froze his account and prevented him from accessing any of the funds.
Prior to a hearing on the Motion to Vacate, with help from Legal Aid, Mr. Jenkins reached an agreement with the Attorney General’s office and the parent who had been receiving child support payments. They agreed that the arrears were expired and unenforceable, but Mr. Jenkins agreed to give the custodial parent a portion of the lump sum that he had received. The case was closed, his account was unfrozen, and he was able to use the money for many essentials, including a bed that raises and lowers, making it more accessible for Mr. Jenkins to use.
"It gave me confidence that somebody does care," Mr. Jenkins said.
A few months after the case was closed, Mr. Jenkins let Legal Aid know that his Social Security checks were still being garnished in error. Legal Aid advocated with the Attorney General’s office, who contacted the Maryland Child Support Agency to make sure that garnishments were stopped. In spring of 2022, he finally started receiving checks to reimburse him for the additional garnishments.
"[My attorney] was very compassionate, she understood, she called, she explained things for me, she went out of her way and I thank God for it," Mr. Jenkins said. "It has turned my life to joy, I’m telling you."