Pennsylvania Child Support Collections and Fees
Any source of the noncustodial parent's income is subject to child support garnishment in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Office of Child Support also requires that bonuses and other lump-sum payments owed to an individual subject to a support order be reported, so that the appropriate amount can be withheld. Employers are allowed to collect a certain percentage of fees associated with the administrative costs of enforcing a support order. It is of extreme importance that the employer complies with the rules of wage garnishment in Pennsylvania, as the penalties for noncompliance in Pennsylvania include heavy fines and even imprisonment.
Income Subject to Withholding for Child Support Garnishment
Any source of income in Pennsylvania is subject to child support withholding. "Income" as defined in Pennsylvania includes wages, salaries, bonuses, fees, compensation in kind, commissions, income derived from business, gains from property dealings, interest, rents, royalties, dividends, annuities, income from life insurance and endowment contracts, all forms of retirement income, income received from an estate or trust, unemployment or workers' compensation benefits, lottery winnings, income tax settlements, awards, or legal settlements.
Further, a Pennsylvania court may attach assets and pensions, and may utilize bonding or other requirements in cases involving employees who receive income from sources other than wages. "Earnings" as defined by the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) are protected by a maximum withholding limit. However, not all forms of income meet the CCPA definition of earnings. The income that does not meet this definition is not protected by Pennsylvania's withholding limits.
Bonuses and Other Lump Sum Payments
Lump-sum payments are subject to withholding for support in Pennsylvania. Before paying out the lump-sum payment, administrators or employers that owe a lump-sum to a noncustodial parent subject to a support order must contact the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement Central Registry. The withholding amount for a lump-sum payment depends on the type of payment that is attached. Further, lump-sum attachments can only be made by a Pennsylvania court, and not an agency of Pennsylvania, which is why the employer must first contact the Central Registry with the information.
Termination of Employment
When an employee subject to a support order stops working for an employer, the employer must immediately notify the agency of the termination by sending a copy of the support order with the company name, employee name, date of termination, employee's home address, and if known, the identity of the new employer. In the case of a retiring employee subject to a support order, the employer must send the agency the name and address of the employee's retirement administrator.
In order to account for fees accumulated from the enforcement of a support order, an employer may deduct up to 2% of the amount paid under the order. This fee deduction must come out of the employee's wages, and not the support payment. In addition to administrative fees, the employer may receive a notice to deduct for agency fees. This is a one-time notice, and this payment should be made separately from the support payment. However, the one-time agency fee is considered part of the support order, and if the total fee and payment exceed the withholding limit, the support payment takes priority.
Penalty for Noncompliance
The penalties for noncompliance in Pennsylvania are stiff. An employer who fails to comply with a support order may be held in contempt of court, subject to imprisonment. Additionally, an employer is liable for any amount of income they willfully fail to withhold, and a Pennsylvania court may impose a fine of up to $1,000 per occurrence for an employer's willful violation. A $1,000 fine may also be imposed if an employer fails to comply with a request for information regarding the employee's compensation from a state department, a domestic relations section, or a child agency of another state. However, when an employer complies with a support order that is "regular on its face," they are protected from civil liability to the employee.
Pennsylvania State Child Support Program – Contact Information
Collection and Disbursement Unit
P.O. Box 69112
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9112
Phone: (877) 727-7238
Fax: (717) 787-9706