Child support payments are often facilitated by the courts and a governmental agency through wage garnishments. Typically, a parent's wages are only garnished if a parent is severely in arrears. Often a parent charged with paying child support may wonder how the process evolves from beginning to end. Here's some information about how the wage garnishment process works and what to do in case there are mistakes.
My employer is garnishing my wages for child support. How did this happen?
The law allows employers to garnish up to 50-65% of an employee's disposable income for child support payments. The amount of garnished wages varies, but it's mostly dependent on whether a spouse is supporting another spouse/child. The process for garnishing a parent's wages is as follows:
- An employer receives a letter that expressly requires the company to garnish the wages of one of their employees. The letter will include a copy of the court order establishing child support payments.
- The employer will send a letter to the employee, either with their next paycheck or before, to explain the wage garnishment.
- The employee/parent can contest the wage garnishment with the court, using a specific ground to contest child support payments such as changes in income, unemployment, etc.
What if my employer accidentally garnished my wages for child support non-payment?
If an employer erred in garnishing the employee's wages, the employee should:
- Gather proof of paid child support payments.
- Go to court to request an order to stop the garnished wages.
- If the request is granted, take the order to cease garnished wages to the employer. The wage garnishments should cease immediately and money should be refunded to the employee by the employer who will be reimbursed by the state.
Employer Discrimination and Wage Garnishments
Parents may sometimes be concerned about the stigma attached to wage garnishments. However, the law protects employees from unfair discrimination due to wage garnishments. An employer can not terminate an employee's employment due to wage garnishments, nor can an employer withhold more than the state's maximum allowable amount (50-65% of disposable income). If an employee believes that he/she has been discriminated against due to garnished wages, the employee should contact an attorney in their state or file a report with the United States Department of Labor.
Prior to having wages garnished, parents should try to work with the courts or each other to come up with a manageable payment arrangement. Parents may also seek a modification if they are having financial problems. If appropriate, parents should also consider hiring a competent attorney in their state, to assist with any problems.