Arizona Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections
UPDATED: February 1, 2011
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While wage garnishment in Arizona prescribes a broad range of income subject to child support garnishment, the state’s withholding limits are stricter than those found in the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). In Arizona, a maximum of 50% of the employee’s “disposable earnings” can be deducted for child support, although not all earnings count as “disposable earnings.” Thus, those that do not count as disposable earnings lack the protection of this maximum withholding amount. Under Arizona garnishment law, the child support order takes top priority over any other state withholding order. However, no matter how many support orders an employee has, his or her paycheck will be protected by Arizona’s strict withholding limits.
Garnishment Limits and Exemptions
Under Arizona garnishment law, the maximum amount of child support deductions that may be made from an employee’s “disposable earnings” is 50%. Disposable earnings are comprised of all “earnings” minus any deductions that are required by law. The 50% withholding limit applies even when the employee is supporting a second family or owes arrears. However, these disposable earnings protections only apply if the income is first categorized as “earnings” by the CCPA.
“Earnings” are defined by the CCPA as any income that is paid or payable for personal services. This includes, but is not limited to, wages, salary, commission, bonuses, and periodic payments pursuant to a retirement program. If an employee’s particular source of income does not fall within the CCPA’s definition of earnings, it is not protected by the withholding limit. Additionally, deductions that are made from the employee’s paycheck which are not required by law, such as 401(k) deductions, are counted as part of the employees “disposable earnings,” and therefore subject to child support garnishment.
Allocation and Priority
Some employees may be subject to more than one support order. However, regardless of the amount of support orders the employee’s income is subject to, the maximum withholding limit in Arizona is 50%. If the employee’s income is subject to medical support premiums or arrears, the premiums get deducted after the current support payments, and the arrears follow.
In Arizona, a child support wage garnishment takes priority over any other state-issued garnishment against the employee’s income, regardless of whether the support order was issued before or after the other wage garnishment. However, if there has been an IRS levy on the employee’s wages that precedes the child support garnishment, the IRS levy takes priority. The employer can contact the IRS agent listed on the levy notice and ask that the support order be accommodated. If the agent agrees, the employer should get it in writing. Further, the employer should notify the court that issued the support order of the pre-existing IRS levy on the employee’s income.
Protection from Discrimination
It is against the law for an employer to discipline, terminate, or refuse to hire an employee because of an employee’s support order. Employers who discriminate on the basis of an order of assignment will be liable for damages suffered by the employee as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred.