Child Support Wage Assignments

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Most Common Family Law Issues:

What is a Wage Assignment?

A wage assignment is a legal order to withhold a specified sum from your wages to satisfy a debt in accordance with the federal or state law.  Basically, the government is forcing you to pay your child support by going to the source of your income (usually your employer) rather than wait for you to pay it.

I Thought that Was Called a Garnishment?

Confusingly, the terms "garnishment","earnings withholding order", "levy," and "wage assignment" are all legal terms for the same thing.  Lawyers like to use as many complicated words as possible to describe simple ideas. 

Different government agencies have their preferences among these terms, and garnishments dealing with family law agencies and child support are generally called "wage assignments."   The Federal Government likes "levy" and States often use "earnings withholding order." 

Can I Request to Pay Child Support Voluntarily?

No, not generally.  Federal (and most State) law require that all orders regarding child support use wage assignment as a means to ensure prompt payment and dispose of time-consuming enforcement orders.  It will automatically be assigned unless there is some kind of exceptional circumstance that makes wage assignment impossible (or, obviously, if the non-custodial parent is self-employed or unemployed). 

Can I Ask My Employer Not to Pay?

Not a chance.  Once the employer receives the order, called a "Notice of Wage and Earning Assignment," the employer legally must deduct the specified amount and send it to the appointed person or agency indicated, even if the request is from out of state.  The employer can even charge you a fee for doing so (though the fees are usually nominal).  The law does, however, require that the employer not deduct more than 50% of your salary, except in exceptional circumstances.   

If the employer fails to garnish the wages, most states will transfer the debt directly to him.

Does the Order Have to Come From a Judge?

Not necessarily.  Wage assignments can come from a signed court order, or they can come directly from Child Support Services.  If you wish to change or stop the assignment, or you feel it was made in error, you can request an immediate court hearing.  

If I Want to Fight the Wage Assignment, Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Absolutely.  I you feel the wage assignment is unfair, or the amount of the payments too great per month, then you should immediately contact a Family Law Attorney.  A hearing to modify child support payments is often a contentious and difficult issue to try, so you will need a good lawyer to represent your interests and make sure your wages are not unreasonably being garnished.

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Last Modified: 06-26-2013 02:35 PM PDT

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