Florida Child Support Collections and Fees
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While most income is subject to withholding, Florida wage garnishment laws provide special treatment for lump-sum payments owed to a noncustodial parent subject to child support collections. Most of these lump-sum payments do not have to be reported, with a couple of exceptions. However, an employer should be aware that they are bound by Florida child support collections law to enforce wage garnishment on an employee's regular income. The penalties for failing to enforce child support garnishment are heavy, and include being liable for a civil action as well as for civil penalties.
Income Subject to Withholding for Child Support Garnishment
While a noncustodial parent must consider any source of income as subject to the support order, some of their income is protected by state withholding limits. Florida defines income as any form of payment from an individual, private entity, or any unit or branch of government. Payment includes wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, workers' compensation, retirement benefits, disability benefits, annuity benefits, compensation as an independent contractor, pensions, dividends, interest, royalties, and trusts.
Bonuses and Other Lump Sum Payments
In general, Florida law does not require that an employer report a lump-sum payment that is due to an employee to the agency issuing a support order. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this general rule. First, a bonus is treated differently for withholding purposes. A bonus means a one-time payment that is in addition to the employee's regular compensation. A bonus does not include commission payments. The support order may include a stipulation that if and when a bonus is owed to the employee, an arrearage payment is to be deducted up to the full amount of the bonus. Secondly, a workers' compensation lump-sum settlement cannot be paid out to an employee or their attorney until they provide the judge presiding over the workers' compensation claim with a written letter from the Department of Finance. This letter should state whether the employee owes support, and if so, how much is due.
Termination of Employment
When an employee subject to a support order terminates their employment with the employer, the employer must immediately notify the issuing agency. The employer should send a copy of the order with the company name, employee name and last known address, and the date of termination. The employer should also include the new employer's address, if known. Because pension payments are included within the definition of "income," the employer must also notify the issuing agency if the employee retires and will be receiving any pension payments. The employer should send the issuing agency the address of the pension administrator.
For the first deduction made and remitted, an employer may charge up to $5 in administrative fees. Thereafter, a maximum of $2 may be charged per deduction. The fee should come out of the employee's wages, and not the support payment. While the combined total of the support payment and the administrative fee can never exceed the maximum withholding limits, this administrative fee does take priority over the support payment, and should be allocated first.
Penalty for Noncompliance
If an employer fails to deduct and remit the support payment due, the employer will be held liable for the missed payment(s), as well as costs, interest, and reasonable attorneys' fees. In addition, the employer may be subject to a civil penalty for up to $250 for the first violation, and up to $500 thereafter. These penalties will be paid to whoever is enforcing the order, which will generally be the obligee of the payment or the issuing agency.
Florida State Office of Child Support – Contact Information
Department of Revenue
Division of Child Support Enforcement
P.O. Box 8030
Tallahassee, FL 32312-2603
Phone: (850) 488-5050
Fax: (850) 488-4401