Wage Garnishments and Child Support

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In order to stop wage garnishments for child support, it’s important to understand why your wages are being garnished and whether the amount is accurate. When wages are garnished for child support collection, the transaction is usually coordinated with your employer by the courts and a government agency.

Typically, a parent's wages are only garnished if he or she is severely in arrears. This means being behind on payments.

While not every parent who pays child support or who has been late on a payment or two is subjected to wage garnishments, understanding how the process evolves from beginning to end will help you to more clearly understand how to stop wage garnishments, if that is indeed necessary.

My Employer Is Garnishing My Wages for Child Support. How Did This Happen?

The law allows employers to garnish up to 50% to 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 and make a case based on changes in income, unemployment, or other hardships.

How to Stop Wage Garnishment Errors

So you may be asking, “What if my employer accidentally garnished my wages for child support non-payment?” If an employer erred in garnishing the employee's wages, you should:

  • Gather proof of all paid child support payments
  • Go to the court that issued the child support order and request an order to stop the wage garnishment from continuing
  • If the request is granted, take the order to stop wage garnishment to your employer. The wage garnishments should cease immediately

The process for stopping wage garnishment errors is similar, except that the courts will correct the error and establish a new wage garnishment rate. In the event that you’ve inadvertently had too much money taken out of your wages, it is usually up to you to work with your employer to have the over-garnished amount returned to you. In some cases, it may be possible to work with the court to have the overpayment rollover and be applied to the current month or future months. For assistance with this process, you should reach out to the court clerk, who can direct you to the best resources in your area.

Employer Discrimination and Wage Garnishments

You may be concerned about any possible stigma that could be attached to the wage garnishment process. Remember that the law protects employees from unfair discrimination due to wage garnishments.

Your employer cannot terminate your employment due to wage garnishments, nor can an employer withhold more than the state's maximum allowable amount (which is usually 50% to 65% of disposable income).

If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to garnished wages, you should contact an attorney in your state or file a ​complaint with the United States Department of Labor.​

Avoiding Wage Garnishments

If you’ve fallen behind on child support payments, but have not yet had your wages garnished, consider working with the courts to develop a manageable payment arrangement. You can also seek a child support modification if you are experiencing financial problems or if your circumstances have changed considerably since the child support order was originally issued.

For assistance with this process, reach out to an experienced child support lawyer in your area.