Missouri Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections
While the noncustodial parent must consider any form of their income as being subject to child support garnishment, Missouri law allows for some of this income to fall within garnishment exemptions. Further, Missouri garnishment law is more protective of the noncustodial parent’s income than is federal law and the laws of many other states. Even when the noncustodial parent is served with multiple withholding orders, or support orders from states with higher garnishment limits, Missouri garnishment limits still apply.
Garnishment Limits and Exemptions
Missouri closely follows the guidelines of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) when determining the portion of an employee’s wages exempt from garnishment. To determine the allowable maximum amount an employer can deduct, first subtract all of the legally required deductions from the employee’s total earnings. Legally required deductions are limited to income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, any state disability or unemployment insurance, payments for a state pension system for public-sector employees, and any payments required by the Railroad Retirement Act. After these deductions are made, the resulting amount is considered the employee’s “disposable earnings,” which are subject to maximum garnishment limits. While Missouri recognizes CCPA withholding limits, the state child support agency generally limits withholding to 50%. As a reference, CCPA garnishment limits are as follows:
- 50% if the employee supports a second family;
- 55% if the employee supports a second family and is twelve weeks or more behind on support payments;
- 60% if the employee does not support a second family;
- 65% if the employee does not support a second family and is not more than twelve weeks behind on support payments.
Allocation and Priority
If an employer receives two or more support orders for the same employee, they must not deduct more than the maximum garnishment limits, even if the payments exceed this amount. The employer should pay the current support first on each order, based on the ratio that the current support payment holds out of the total allowable disposable earnings. If there is money left over, the employer should then allocate medical support payments, and then arrears, in the same fashion. If all support orders were issued by the state of Missouri, the employer may send the total payment to the agency, and the agency will allocate the payments accordingly.
If an employer is served with both an order for support and a levy issued by the IRS, the employer should withhold for the levy first. However, the employer should contact the IRS agent listed on the levy about accommodating the order. The IRS often agrees to do this, and if they do, the employer should get this agreement in writing. Either way, the employer should contact the agency or court that issued the support order to inform them about the tax levy.
When an employer receives a state-issued withholding order in addition to a support order, the support order takes priority. This is true regardless of whether the other withholding order was issued before or after the order for support. Further, as of October 17, 2005, support orders also take priority over Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment orders.
Protection from Discrimination
It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee, or to refuse to hire someone on the basis of a support order. If an employee is terminated within thirty days after the order was served on the employer, a presumption arises that the employer discriminated against the employee because of the support order. The employee may bring a civil action against the employer, in which the employer must show by convincing evidence that the employee was terminated for reasons other than the order of support. If the employer is found liable for discrimination, they will be subject to pay damages for the employee’s lost wages, attorneys’ fees, and the amount of child support due over the period of time from when the employee was terminated, and may even be ordered to reinstate the employee. The employer may also be ordered to pay a civil fine of up to $150.