Child Support Withholding Orders
Wages withheld from your paychecks to satisfy a child support order are another kind of involuntary deduction. If you're obligated by a court or agency order to pay child support, your earnings are subject to immediate and automatic withholding by the employer. Sometimes both parents, or one parent and the court, agree to a different method of payment. In that case, child support doesn't have to be paid with involuntary deductions. If a payment is ever late, though, wage withholding will start up automatically without a court order or agency hearing. State child support agencies don't have to notify you before they send a withholding order to your employer. They're only required to tell you about it afterward. In addition, your employer has to obey a child support withholding order received from another state.
When withholding begins, and when it ends. Your employer will start withholding child support within 14 working days of receiving the order. In some states, withholding has to begin even sooner. Your employer sends the money to the person or agency named in the order. The deductions will continue until your employer receives written notice from the court or agency to stop the withholding. When your child or children become "emancipated"--that is, when they reach the age of 18 or 21, depending on the state--you no longer have to pay child support. In this case, it's your responsibility, to have an order issued to stop the withholding.
The part of your pay that is subject to child support withholding. The order received by your employer states the amount to be deducted from your wages. This amount is subtracted from your "disposable earnings." Your disposable earnings are what's left from your gross pay after the employer deducts any amounts for income and employment taxes. Federal law sets the following limits on the percentage of your disposable earnings that can be withheld to pay for child (or spousal) support.
- 50% of your disposable earnings can be withheld if you're supporting another spouse and/or child. This jumps to 55% if you're over 12 weeks late with your payments.
- 60% of your disposable earnings can be withheld if you're not supporting another spouse and/or child. This goes up to 65% if you're over 12 weeks late with your payments.
Your employer withholds your current support obligations before turning to past-due amounts. If you're paying off past-due child support, your current payments plus these other amounts can't add up to more than the maximum percentage. State law can lower the percentage that may be withheld, but can't raise the percentage past the federal limits shown above.
Child support and other involuntary deductions. Tax levies that your employer received before the child support withholding order have to be paid before the child support. Bankruptcy orders also have to be paid first. (These orders usually include amounts to pay child support obligations.) With these two exceptions, your employer has to satisfy your child support withholding before all your other involuntary deductions.
If you're paying a tax levy or bankruptcy order in addition to child support, the total amount withheld from your wages can't be more than the percentages listed above.
If state law allows, your employer can deduct a small fee each pay period for processing wage withholding orders. This fee will usually come out of your take-home pay, not out of the child support payment.
Your employer can't fire you, punish you, or discriminate against you because your pay is subject to child support withholding. Any employer that does these things because of your child support obligations will be hit with stiff fines, and can be ordered to give you your job back.
If your employer doesn't deduct the full total required by the support order, the employer has to pay whatever amount wasn't correctly withheld.