How to Obtain a Child Support Garnishment

The purpose of child support is to ensure that children’s needs are provided for by both parents, including the parent that the child doesn’t live with.  If the non-custodial parent works, the court-ordered child support is usually withheld directly from their paycheck and paid to the custodial parent.  This is often referred to as a “child support garnishment,” although technically, it’s simply a child support withholding.

Child support is governed by both federal and state law, and when these conflict, the law that’s most favorable to the employee facing the garnishment will be followed. Because each state’s child support enforcement department implements the process, the regulations and procedures can differ by state.  However, the process of obtaining a child support garnishment or withholding generally occurs as indicated below.

The child support garnishment/withholding process

In order to enact a wage garnishment for child support, the non-custodial parent’s location and employer must first be determined (if not known.) If you’re seeking a child support withholding, you’ll need to go to your local Child Support Enforcement office with as much information as you can about the other parent, including:

  • Their full name, address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Race
  • Age.

You’ll also need to bring a photo I.D., proof of your current address, and birth certificates for the children you are obtaining support for.  There’s usually an application fee which varies by state.

You’ll also need to provide the child support agency with proof of your income and expenses, and when the other parent is located, they will be required to do the same.  The caseworker assigned to your case will use this information to determine the amount of monthly support to which you’re entitled, as well as any additional payments for medical and dental care, daycare, and any past-due support.

They will then submit this order to the court and a child support hearing will be held. You’ll need to be present for this, but if the other parent lives out-of-state they may be allowed to attend via telephone.

If the order is granted (which happens the majority of the time,) the garnishment/withholding will begin with the garnishee’s next paycheck. Child support orders are usually retroactive to the date that the application for benefits was filed, so the non-custodial parent could already owe back payments on the date of the hearing.

The non-custodial parent can dispute the amount of child support owed if they feel that it causes them a significant hardship. The custodial parent can also dispute this amount if they feel that it’s not sufficient.

Federal law allows for a greater portion of an employee’s wages to be garnished for child support purposes than for commercial debts.  If the garnishee is supporting a family, up to 50% of their wages can be garnished, otherwise 60% are subject to garnishment.

Learn more about the laws that play a role in wage garnishments for child support here.

Resources (links to each state’s child support agency)

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