Dealing with Child Support Wage Garnishment

Child support wage garnishment is an unnecessary challenge that you can avoid if you do the right thing.  If you have agreed to make child support payments as the noncustodial parent, keep in mind that there are consequences if you fail to meet your obligation. 

What Will Happen?

Legislation passed in 1984 gives states the right to withhold your wages if and when your support is in arrears, regardless of whether your payments are enforced through a child support agency:

  • Your employer will be served a notice that specifies how much of your salary should be withheld, including both the current support due and any amount to be withheld to resolve back payments. 
  • Not only will these dollars be deducted from your paycheck before you receive it, but your employer also has the right to withhold a transaction fee as an administrative cost for the garnishment. 

You will see fewer dollars in your check no later than the first pay period that occurs 14 days from the postmark date on the withholding notice.  The Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act allows for up to 50 percent of your wages to be withheld if you are head of another household; this increases to 60 percent if you are not supporting another family.  Moreover, these amounts increase by 5 percent if you are in arrears more than three months prior to the current pay period.  

Don’t think that changing jobs will make the garnishment disappear; your previous employer is required to inform either the court or the child support agency that entered the wage withholding order of your switch.  Then, your new employer will also be notified to hold back part of your earnings.

Understand Your Rights

If your wages will be garnished, you should be told in advance the amount that will be withheld, when the garnishment will begin and how you can contest the order.  If you object to the withholding, you may ask for a hearing to determine the validity of the order.  The state must notify you and your employer of its final decision within 45 days of the initial notice.  But remember: you are only able to request a hearing if a mistake has been made about either the amount that you owe or your identity. 

Getting Help

If you believe that the withholding notice was issued in error, you might consider retaining a wage garnishment defense lawyer.  These attorneys work to help you combat accounting errors, contest any violation of rights and verify questionable paternity.  If needed, they may also be able to negotiate a payment plan for you that will help you avoid garnishment while still taking responsibility to support your child.

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