In most circumstances, a parent’s child support payments are automatically deducted from his or her paycheck through a wage garnishment or income withholding order.
However, two stories recently emerged of an employer allegedly pocketing those payments rather than sending the money to the state child support collection unit. Unfortunately, this can leave a parent in a particularly tough bind, especially if they don’t catch the pick-pocketing immediately.
In April, the Albany Times-Union reported on the story of Loubert Legros, the former executive chef at Carmine’s Restaurant in Albany, N.Y., who claims he lost eight months’ worth of court-ordered child support payments that were deducted from his paycheck but pocketed by owner Carmine Sprio.
Between 2013 and 2014, more than $6,800 was deducted from his pay, but only about $300 were submitted by Sprio.
Nonetheless, the court still held him responsible for the missed payments.
Then last week, KLTV 7 posted the story of Justin Meadows, an East Texas father who discovered that over seven years more than $32,000 was taken from his paycheck but never sent to his children by his employer, P&O Motors.
Texas law holds employers responsible for withheld money that isn’t turned over to the state and an employer can face civil penalties or criminal action, depending on how long it takes to make the repayments.
Even though Meadows’ employer admitted her wrongdoing, no civil or criminal action has been taken against the employer since 2013 when Meadows notified the Texas Office of the Attorney General of the missing money.
Although these situations might be rare, it is important for parents to be proactive if they suspect something is amiss with how their employers are submitting their payments. Once arrears accumulate, it can be difficult for a parent to take action against their employer for fear of being left without a job while facing significant child support debt.
Cordell & Cordell Indiana family law attorney Kyli Willis said employees don’t typically have any involvement in the process and when they see the withholding on their paycheck, it is reasonable to assume it’s been taken care of.
However, there are ways for parents to check the status of their accounts. Many employers and state support agencies have websites where parents can easily create accounts and log in to perform periodic reviews of paystubs and support accounts.
“I suppose if there was some concern about employers pocketing the funds that are being withheld, I would recommend they more frequently check their child support account history,” Willis said. “No payments into the account would alert them to an issue.”
Generally, if payments aren’t made, the payor will likely here from either the child support agency or from the payee because they payee wouldn’t be receiving the payments. That was the case with Meadows, but he assumed there must be a backlog at the Attorney General’s office and told the mothers to call the state.
That, ultimately, was Meadows’ downfall. With as flawed as the family court system is, it is crucial for parents to be proactive in catching any errors – even ones that aren’t their own – before they snowball into a much bigger issue.
“If your pay is being garnished in this fashion, then you also need to ensure that your employer is sending the money along to the proper state agency,” said Cordell & Cordell Pennsylvania family law attorney William Phelan. “This is why it is also important to check in with your state’s support agency to determine that your account is being credited for the corresponding garnishment amounts.