Misconceptions About Garnishing Wages For Child Support

garnish wages child supportBy Christian D. Barnard

Divorce lawyer, Cordell & Cordell

Child support obligations are inescapable, and wage garnishments are one of the tools states use to ensure those payments are made.

Many clients ask me how child support laws handle garnishing wages for the purposes of collecting child support.

Some are adamant that they do not want their wages garnished because they do not want their employers to know their personal business. Some believe wages can’t be garnished if they are current with their child support payments. Others think only paychecks can be garnished and not other sources of income.

Let’s address child support wage garnishment issues.

Generally, your wages cannot be garnished without an order of the court. The court will not issue a garnishment order without a judgment being awarded against you.

In most states, a child support order becomes a judgment which can be collected on when it is issued. Like collection of a judgment from any other civil case, the judgment holder can use any legal means of collection at their disposal, including garnishment of proceeds from a sale of property. So it’s not just your paychecks that are affected.

Wage garnishments are intended to protect parents for accumulating arrearages on their support payments. It is often the perception that a paying parent should not be subject to any wage garnishment so long as they are current on their support payment.

But that isn’t always the case.

In many states, income deduction orders are authorized in all cases. But some states do not automatically order wage garnishments until the paying party begins owing back child support.

When this happens, your child’s mother or the state must initiate an action to recover the amounts owed, known as arrearages.

During such a proceeding, the court will look at information such as amounts previously paid, the income of both parents, child care expenses, health insurance expenses, and amount of visitation.

If the party who initiated an action for arrearages is successful in showing that the amounts are owed, the court can award that party a judgment in the amount of the arrearages plus, in some states, interest.

Once the judgment is awarded, the prevailing party can seek an order allowing garnishment as a means to execute the judgment.

There are state and federal laws regarding how much of your income can be taken to satisfy the judgment.

For a more in depth discussion of fathers rights and legal advice on divorce, I urge you to contact a family law attorney.

Divorce lawyer Christian BarnardTo set up an appointment with a Cordell & Cordell mens divorce attorney, including Christian D. Barnard, an Associate Attorney in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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18 comments on “Misconceptions About Garnishing Wages For Child Support

    “When this happens, your child’s mother or the state must initiate an action to recover the amounts owed, known as arrearages.”

    You might want to change this to non custodial party, seeing as how not just mothers win custody.

    My pay is garnished from a woman I met 27 years ago and now she has gone to court and said I was the Father of her twins. I never knew they even excited. They are 27 years old. I need info on how and where to go for a DNA to prove that they are not my children. I live in Albany. Please help.

    If I’m paying my monthly Child Support on time, but get a job in the process, even if I’m current on my child support, do I still have to have my wages garnished? Thank you

    My ex hasnt paid or even seen my son in 2 years. He owes a lof of back child support. He took off to maryland last summer and i found out he was working and turned in his job. It worked and on october 4th his job started garnishing his wages after a court order. How long will it be until i receive the child support money?

    I caught the child support before it became a collections case by calling the local department of health and welfare. I’m so glad I did, because that way they can’t garnish it. I just make monthly payments like student loans or a car lease. I’ll probably eventually be hit with medical bills or something, but I doubt she’ll pull herself far enough out of poverty to ever not be on Medicaid. It’s cheaper to make the initial effort to help them than to wait for a fight. If you can’t contact them, health and welfare is your best resource for legal information. Child support can only be re-evaluated every few years and the more physical custody you have in writing, the less you pay. Also, the less money you make at the time of re-evaluation, the less you pay.

    What you said isn’t true in all cases. I am only familiar with the laws of two states, but in both of those states, state law says all child support must go through the state and anyone with a support order automatically has their pay check garnished. Also, in both of those states, it doesn’t matter how often you have the child as that doesn’t calculate into how much you. Not saying I agree, but their argument is the custodial parent still has to provide a roof over the child’s head etc. I have had a child living with me full time with the exception of a weekend a month and yet I still was paying hundreds of dollars every month in child support. Common sense does not apply when it comes to child support. The problem is there were issues, so legislatures passed laws meant to resolve those issues, but they weren’t always well written, they don’t account for corner cases, and generally speaking they are zero exception rules. To completely contradict that, what can be enforced is what you can get a magistrate to order. So if they set your child support at 3x state guidelines and you show up and object, child support enforcement can ask for more time to re-evaluate, they can then up your child support, go to the magistrate the next day, swear they provided the required 10-day notice (obviously if you had court the previous day, they didn’t), and then you are ordered to pay more than 3x state guidelines and there is nothing you can do. To appeal it you need to get the magistrate to agree to hear your case (never happened for me) and then you have to tell the magistrate that they effectively made an error.

    I hate child support enforcement enough that I have three children in my home for which I should get child support and yet I refuse to file the paper work. They are bad enough that I feel going without is more fair then subjecting others to them. Where I live child support enforcement is by county, so a lot of it depends on the county.

    One final example of child support not being fair, I am currently “in default”. The state refused to process payments the last week of June and thus the payment didn’t post until July 3. The county child support enforcement agency are accordingly taking out an extra payment spread out over 8 months, charging interest, and assess late payment fees. I did nothing wrong, I followed the law, my employer took it out, they paid on time, the state refused to process (which they acknowledge), but the county claims state law requires that I pay the fees and effectively make an extra payment. They would argue I don’t make an extra payment, but every month the payment still gets deducted and ends up with my child’s custodial parent and yet I have to pay the equivalent of an extra payment (with interest and fees). In theory, I get to make one less payment in the end. In practice, they don’t track that you’re ahead, so next year if this happens again, I’ll get declared in arrears again. Also, its up to me to get child support ended and in my state you can’t file until after the child has graduated from high school and then it usually takes several months.

    Why are child support agencies so bad? Not all are, but the problem here is their budget is a percentage of the payment. If I am a parent that actually keeps a job (15 years at the same employer), I am a reliable cash cow. Their jobs literally depend on fleecing me because so many of the cases they handle have dead beats, so it becomes my obligation to make up for them. Not legally, but in reality. At one point they had three cases open on the same child against me. Good luck trying to prove that in court. Good luck being a single dad, paying for day care, and trying to pay just the retainer to have an attorney look at your case.

    iam still paying child support on 2 children even though one is in my custody..its not fair that dhs can come in and do what they want..my oldest son lives with his father and by the way hes 19 yrs old and ive been ordered to pay support on him till he graduates which will be may 2018 which thats fine with me its the paying childsupport on my youngest son whos 13 and lives with me that dhs is garnishing my checks and sending the money to my ex all the while i dont recieve nothing from him no help what so ever and this is all from an orginal order from my divorce back in 2013 so they say it will take bout 6 months to clear this up for a modification to take place..but till then nothi i can do but continue to let dhs rip me and my son off because theyre taking from him too..all the while holding onto my federal tax return for “back child support” i do not owe since the orginal order is in place right now..yes i do know that no one will pay back my money that their stealing from me just to give to my deadbeat ex husband..yep thats okdhs for u

    do wage garnishments continue after emancipation?

    I ask because my kids are in college. They filed a restraining order against me when i reached out to them. (their mother did 15 years ago) because as minors I had NO visitation custody or contact. Assuming now they emancipated themselves
    can I appeal the arrearages? I tried to pay my kids directly (maybe for credit)
    since paying their mother never lets the kids see my support.

    I don’t know the court presidence but I did not have to pay in Alaska after an adopted child requested and received emancipation. It seems to me, either you are the parent or you are not. Once emancipated you no longer have parental rights and have no legal standing or obligation.

    That is true for current child support. If you have any amount in arrears that will be payable until the amount in ARREARS is paid in full.

    I am still paying child support for my 18 year old son, who is also a high school graduate. The mother is somehow still garnishing my paycheck..how can I stop this?

    I took the father of my daughter to court for maintenance he only pays once and sometimes pays half of the money promise to pay the other half with the other next but failed, when I went back to court they gave me paper to give to him to sign but he refuse , the maintenance officer said the is nothing she can do . what must I do?

    You can’t owe something when there’s no DETAILED ACCOUNTING for every cent “they claim” you have to pay.
    If a person owes me money and I have to take him to court, then the judge will need to see, on paper, signed IOU’s.
    Law applies just as well with the judicial system. They’re not “special” or exempt from the law.
    As far as stepping in without warning technically is stealing from others income without warning.
    Why the employer is so afraid to stand up for the employeesYou can’t owe something when there’s no DETAILED ACCOUNTING for every cent “they claim” you have to pay.
    If a person owes me money and I have to take him to court, then the judge will need to see, on paper, signed IOU’s.
    Law applies just as well with the judicial system. They’re not “special” or exempt from the law.
    As far as stepping in without warning technically is stealing from others income. and why the employer is afraid to stand up by stating: “You can’t fine me for someone else’s problem”
    Nothing in the law about that because they can’t make a law based on that statement.

    Same here. I pay and that is as far as it goes and only because the state garnished my wages. The mother of the child turned out to be a nasty person. She wanted me to help her buy a car and asked me for $8,000. I told her I had no money. When my wages got garnished, she started sending text messages, saying she would do as she pleased with the money and that she didn’t care if I was in the baby’s life. I didn’t answered to her messages. She was even glad and made fun of me when a family member passed away. I didn’t say anything that time either. I opted to stay quiet and stay away. She was after money because she doesn’t like to work. She collects from me, her older daughter’s dad, collects food stamps and she even gets a free government cell phone. I have to pay medical insurance for the child but can’t afford mine. I can tell you I’m much happier not dealing with that woman and going thru all that stress.

    I have been working for a company for a few months & having my wages garnished due to child support is nothing new to me, I’ve been paying since 2001 & I have no problem taking care of my fatherly responsibilities but about 3 months ago I signed up for medical insurance through my work, 4 weeks ago my boss approached me & had me sign papers from child support to provide the same medical insurance for my son (who I am paying child support for), after reading everything & seeing it was official I signed “no problem” but now last week he calls me into his office and with absolutely no official documentation to show me tells me that I have 5 weeks of unpaid medical insurance that has accrued and that my only options are to A) let him take all my sick leave hours (30 hrs) to provide me a decent check since the amount accrued was pretty much equal to what I would be getting paid that following week……or B) sign a loan document (which he had made and already printed out) in which I would be admitting to receiving a loan from him in the amount of my weekly check and would be responsible to pay him back a portion of this amount with each pay check. Now I’m no lawyer but it’s that even legal… I mean once I signed the papers consenting for deductions for the medical insurance through child support isn’t any moneys owed or not paid a matter between child support and my employer. I mean I signed all documents as soon as they where brought to my attention, so I fail to see 3 or 4 weeks after giving my written consent how I accrued 5 weeks of interest, furthermore how my boss can put me in the position of having to choose between owing him or losing sick hours to receive a pay check with zero proof of there being an actual issue with child support. Anyone know anything about this matter or have any legal advice?

    Unfortunately COAP only applies to monies owed to the government (welfare or some other type of government assistance the custodial parent had to go on due to not having enough money) not monies owed to the custodial parent that can only be forgiven/reduced by the custodial parent or due to errors made during collection/accrual. And child support payments can’t be eliminated by filing bankruptcy either. In California if you owe back child support they CAN garnish your check at up to 50%, other states allow 100% (I believe New York is one of them). You need to check with your state for the law on that. And the interest on arrears varies from state to state as well. But either way they have to have an order and if there is an order for child support, there is an order for garnishment as well they go hand in hand you don’t need a separate order for it. My ex owes me (yes me, not the kids as the money owed is arrears, and I already put 100% of the money out. It was almost a kind of loan to him if you will) more money in back child support than he will ever be able to pay and I know that. In fact I agreed to a lower amount than the child support agency was going to take for the arrears because he couldn’t afford the higher amount. Both of my children are now over the age of 18 and in college so they still need my help from time to time. So there is no him being jilted by this, he owes the money because all those years he jilted us by not paying the money he was suppose to pay to begin with. I had to figure it out for the three of us, he can figure it out for himself. So I wont forgive what he owes, its a matter of principal, not being a witch.

    I am a mother of a son of 34 years old. I am still paying “back child support” arrears for my son and this case is now currently 30 years old. My previous employer started garnishing my wages @ 50% of my check wages and the last 3 years of my employment started garnishing 100% without a court order. I worked for this company for 16 years. Is this allowed? I am now currently employeed with another company and trying to apply for COAP. Compromise of Arrears Program. I was jilted long ago for being a nieve parent. Don’t let this happen to you.

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