Child Support Wage Garnishment
The parent who is owed child support can obtain a child support wage garnishment if there is an existing court order for child support or if you owe back child support. There are many collections methods which can be used once the custodial parent obtains a judgment to collect child support and one of the most effective is a child support wage garnishment. Even if the custodial parent got the judgment in one state and you have since moved to California, that parent can register the judgment in the State of California for enforcement.
To satisfy an order for child support, the custodial parent can seize your personal property, which includes the wages paid to you by your employer.
A child support wage garnishment requires your employer to withhold a portion of your wages from your paycheck. This withholding is then sent to the State of California who, in turn, sends the money to the custodial parent.
Terminating a Child Support Wage Garnishment
A request to stop child support wage garnishment is done only after a court order has been issued to garnish your wages.
Once a court orders you to pay child support, you must make the monthly child support payments starting on the effective date – the date ordered by the court. In every case ordering child support, the court will order that a wage assignment (garnishment) be issued and served. The wage assignment tells your employer to take the support payments out your wages.
Local Child Support Agency
If the local child support agency is involved in your case, they will automatically issue the wage assignment and begin collecting from your paycheck through your employer.
If the local child support agency is not involved in your case, the parent owed the support will prepare a wage assignment, submit it to the court for the judge’s signature, and send it to your employer.
Consequences for Nonpayment
Not paying child support can have very serious consequences. If the court finds that you have the ability to pay support but are willfully not paying it, it can find you are in contempt of court. Being in contempt of court could mean jail time for you for not paying child support. This enforcement tool is generally used only when all others have failed since it has such serious consequences.
If the reason you cannot pay your child support or are falling behind is you lost your job, your income went down, you went to jail, or some other important change happened, you need to ask the court to change your child support amount. Even if you lose your job, you will be responsible for the full amount of child support until the child support order is changed by the court.
After the court decides the amount of child and spousal support, the wage assignment tells the employer how much to deduct from each paycheck and instructs the employer to send the money to the State Disbursement Unit, which will send the money to the parent owed the support.
With a wage assignment, if you are regularly employed, the employer will take support payments directly out of your paycheck. Most support is paid this way, and federal and state law requires it in almost all child support cases. It is the employer’s responsibility to withhold the wages if there is a wage assignment. If you have other wage assignments in place, child support is deducted first, before other withholding orders. Spousal or partner support assignments come after child support wage assignments.
Once the wage assignment is served on the employer, the employer has 10 days to start taking the money out from your next paycheck. The employer must deduct the support from your wages and send it to the State Disbursement Unit within 10 days. Child support payments will come to the other parent from the State Disbursement Unit and not directly from your employer.
Cancelling or Setting-Aside a Wage Assignment
When a wage assignment (also called an “earnings assignment”) order is sent to your employer, your employer will give you a blank Request for Hearing Regarding Earnings Assignment. You have 10 days from when you receive this form to ask for a hearing on the wage assignment. On the form, you will have a chance to explain why you do not want your wages garnished. Some of the reasons you can ask for the wage assignment to be canceled are:
- If you and the other parent have an agreement that you will pay your child support directly;
- You are the wrong person (not the person ordered to pay support); or,
- It would be in your children’s best interests to cancel the wage assignment because you have made payments on time for the last 12 months without a wage assignment, you do not owe any back child support and a wage assignments would cause an undue hardship.
Request to Stay a Wage Assignment
In some cases, you may be able to get a “stay” or “hold” on service of the wage assignment, which means that the wage assignment would not be sent to your employer and you would be able to pay on your own. You can ask for a “stay” if you have a history of making payments on time, the wage assignments would cause an undue hardship, or the reason you are behind is that your checks to the other person have been undeliverable for 6 months.
Terminating a Wage Assignment
In some situations, you may be able to ask the court to end a wage or earnings assignment. If you are paying child support for a child or children that has passed away or emancipated, or if the child support agency or your employer has not been able to send payment to your child’s other parent for over 6 months because the other parent did not let them know of a change of address, you can request on your own to end the wage assignment.
Determination of Arrears
If you do not agree with the total amount of back support (arrears) that the local child support agency says you owe – or you are concerned that the local child support agency is not handling the collection and distribution of your child support correctly – you can ask them for an “accounting.” The local child support agency is required by law to give you an accounting of the collections and distributions in your case. If, after the accounting, you still do not agree with what the local child support agency claims you owe in child support, you can go to court to ask for a “determination of arrears.”
You can ask the court to make a “determination of the arrearages owed” (total amount unpaid) if you believe that you have paid more than the local child support agency is crediting to you. You will need to prove the payments you made.
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