Once the court orders you to pay spousal or partner support, you must make the monthly spousal or partner support payments starting on the date the judge orders. In every case ordering spousal or partner support, the court will order that a wage assignment (also called “wage garnishment”) be issued and served. The wage assignment tells your employer to take the support payments out of your wages.
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Support Wage Assignments
Support wage assignments are often used to ensure that one party is receiving timely support payments.
Enforcing Support Wage Assignments
Support wage assignments can be sent to the paying spouse’s employer. In some cases, the local child support agency (LCSA) is involved. The LCSA is only involved if there is also a child support order in your case and if you asked them for help enforcing all support payments (spousal and child support). The LCSA may also be involved if you gets public assistance for your children (like CalWORKS). If the LCSA is involved, the LCSA has to agree to have the wage assignment “stayed” (put on hold). If the spouse getting child and spousal support is not getting public assistance, the LCSA will probably agree to both of you working the payments out between you.
Support Wage Assignment and Earnings Assignment
Support wage assignments result in a wage garnishment. After the court decides the amount of spousal and/or child support to be paid, a wage assignment, also known as an earnings assignment, will be sent to the paying spouse’s employer informing them of the amount to be deducted from each paycheck and where to send the payment. With an earnings assignment, if you are regularly employed, your employer will take support payments directly out of your paycheck. Most support is paid this way, and federal and state laws require it in almost all support cases. It is the employer’s responsibility to withhold the wages if there is an earnings assignment. If you also have a child support earnings assignment in place, child support is deducted first. Spousal support assignments come after child support earnings assignments.
Employer Responsibility to Enforce Support Wage Assignment
Once support payment wage assignments are served on the employer, the employer has 10 days to start taking the money out from your next paycheck. If the local child support agency (LCSA) is involved in your case, the earnings assignment is sent to your employer within 15 days of the date the LCSA finds the employer. The employer must deduct the support from your wages and send it to the LCSA within 10 days. If the earnings assignment is for spousal support only, the employer will forward the payments to the supported spouse directly. When an earnings assignment includes child support, employers must send the payments withheld to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU). This means that the spousal support (with the child support) payments will probably come to the person getting support from the SDU and not directly from the paying person’s employer (or from the LCSA if they are involved in your case). Getting payments through the SDU does not mean that you have a case with the local child support agency.
Objecting to Spousal Wage Assignment
In general, you cannot fight support wage assignments (also called a “wage garnishment”) in court because support wage assignments are allowed by law. However, in some circumstances you can object to the support wage assignments issued to your employer. For instance, if you and your former spouse or partner have an agreement that says there will be no support wage assignments, it may be possible to ask the court to review your case.
Request For Hearing
When support wage assignments are sent to your employer, your employer will give you a blank Request for Hearing Regarding Earnings Assignment form. You have 10 days from when you receive this form to ask for a hearing on the support wage assignments. On the form, you will have a chance to explain why you do not want your wages garnished. When you go to court, the judge will make a decision.
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