An income withholding order is a type of court order used in connection with child support proceedings. An income withholding order requires the parent making the child support payments to surrender a portion of their income for child support payments. This is usually directed towards the non-custodial parent.  

In an income withholding order, the court basically orders the paying parent’s employer to direct a portion of their income to be used for the child support payments. The employer must comply by deducting the specified amount for each pay period and sending it to a state agency such as a State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The state agency will then transfer the payment to the custodial parent. 

In most child support hearings, an income withholding order must accompany the formal child support order, unless both parents request the judge not to include one. Sometimes the order can be imposed separately from the support order. An income withholding order is sometimes referred to as a “child support withholding order” or a “wage withholding order”.

Where Are the Support Payments Coming From?

The term “Income” doesn’t only include the parent’s regular monthly wages. The support payments can also come from other sources such as:

  • Commissions on sales
  • Bonuses
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Disability payments
  • Retirement or pension packages

How Does an Income Withholding Order Affect Other Types of Wage Garnishments?

It is common for the paying parent to have wage garnishments in other areas besides child support (for example, if they have outstanding debt).  An income withholding order takes priority over all other forms of wage garnishment. This means that the child support payments should be deducted from the parent’s payments before any other garnishments can be made.

The only exception to this rule is if the parent also has outstanding federal tax debt prior to the child support order being issued. In this case the federal government may obtain funds through the seizure and sale of property before child support payments are deducted from the parent’s income.

What are the Consequences for Violating an Income Withholding Order?

As part of a child custody order, income withholding orders are enforceable by law. If the parent violates an income withholding order in any way, they may face criminal consequences such as contempt of court charges, monetary fines, or a possible jail sentence. 

Similarly, most state statutes provide legal consequences (fines) against employers who knowingly violate the provisions of an income withholding order. Employers are also prohibited from refusing to hire, terminating, or otherwise disciplining an employee who has become involved in an income withholding order. Employers may not garnish more than the stated wage amount.

Will I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with an Income Withholding Order?

Child support proceedings are often very complicated. If you need assistance with an income withholding order, you may wish to contact a qualified family lawyer in your area. You may need an attorney to review the withholding order or to represent you during court hearings. A lawyer can help you address any disputes or concerns you may have with an employer.