Oklahoma Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections

Oklahoma law requires an employer to comply with court orders to automatically withhold child support payments from a noncustodial parent’s paycheck. The employer may not deduct more from the employee’s wages than Oklahoma garnishment law allows. Oklahoma follows the federal garnishment limits, which differ slightly depending on the noncustodial (paying) parent’s situation. These limits apply at all times, even when the employee has more than one child support order requiring income withholding. When withholding is capped, the employer must allocate and prioritize the deductions.

Garnishment Limits and Exemptions

Employers must comply with an order or notice of withholding until its termination. The total amount of money that may be withheld from a paycheck cannot exceed the maximum amounts set forth by Oklahoma garnishment limits, even if the employee does not have sufficient income per paycheck to withhold the entire court ordered amounts.  

To determine the income that is subject to these limits, Oklahoma follows the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), which states that all legally required deductions first be subtracted from the employee’s gross earnings. The amounts deducted are federal, state, and local withholding taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, state-run pension contributions, disability or unemployment payments, and any deductions required by the Railroad Retirement Act.

What is left after making the above mandatory deductions is called disposable earnings. All other deductions, such as payments made to a 401k plan, must be counted as part of the employee’s disposable earnings.

The withholding limits set by the CCPA are as follows: 

       1. 50% if the employee supports a second family;

        2. 55% if the employee supports a second family and owes more than 12 weeks of back support;

        3. 60% if the employee does not support a second family;

        4. 65% if the employee does not support a second family and owes more than 12 weeks of back support.

Allocation and Priority

An employee may have more than one child support order to withhold income. Employers must honor all withholdings to the greatest extent possible well as abide by the CCPA’s withholding limits. If there is not enough money to go around, the employer may need to prorate the amount due based on the ratio that they hold of the total allowable disposable earnings.

Child support withholding takes priority over another state-issued withholding order, or any Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment order issued on or after October 17, 2005. This means that if the employee’s earnings fall short to pay all, the employer withholds for the support order first, regardless of when issued.

Federal tax levies do take precedence over a child support order if it was served first. The employer must notify the agency that issued the support order of the existing levy. The IRS has stated its willingness to accommodate child support withholding orders that are served after its own levy. The employer should contact the IRS to see if an accomodation can be negoitated.

Protection from Discrimination

The laws of Oklahoma protect a noncustodial (paying) parent from being discriminated against by their employer, or by a potential employer, because of a child support wage order. This means that an employer may not discipline, demote, terminate, or refuse to hire an individual because the employee has a wage assignment. An employer in violation of these laws is held responsible to the noncustodial parent for all wages and benefits lost during the period of discrimination.