Oregon Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections

While child support garnishment is taken very seriously in Oregon, the noncustodial (paying) parent is not without protections when it comes to wage garnishment. Oregon has child support garnishment limits that cap the amount of money that can be withheld from the paycheck, even when the employee has multiple wage garnishment orders.

Garnishment Limits and Exemptions

When determining an employee’s income that is subject to the maximum withholding limits, Oregon follows the provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). The withholding limits for child support are based on the disposable earnings of the noncustodial (paying) parent/employee. An employee’s disposable earnings is the amount of income that remains after subtracting certain mandatory deductions from the employee’s gross pay. Mandatory deductions are federal, state, and local withholding taxes; Social Security and Medicare taxes; unemployment, disability, or pension payments (for public sector employees); and any mandatory payments required under the Railroad Retirement Act. (Oregon does not include income tax from Multnomah County as part of the definition of a legally required deduction, so any Multnomah County income tax will be considered part of the employee’s disposable earnings.)

Oregon law requires that the employer withhold up to 50% of the employee’s net disposable earnings. Since the Oregon cap provides more protection to the employee-parent’s income than the higher federal CCPA amounts, the Oregon employer follows Oregon limits.

Allocation and Priority

If the employer has multiple child support withholding orders for the same employee, the total amount withheld cannot be more than 50%. If the employee does not have sufficient income per paycheck to withhold the entire court-ordered amounts, the employer can send the withheld amounts to the Department of Justice which will prioritize the payments, if all orders for support are payable through the Oregon Department of Justice. However, if one or more of the withholding orders is paid to another source, the employer must allocate the withheld payment among the multiple withholding orders based on the ratio the payment holds to the total support order. The employer should deduct for current support first, followed by any past due amounts (i.e. arrears).

If the employee has other court-ordered wage assignments, as well as a support order, the current monthly support takes priority, regardless of which was served first.  This includes a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment order issued on or after October 17, 2005. 

If the employee has an existing IRS levy, the federal levy takes priority over a child support order, if the levy was in effect before the child support order was entered. The employer must withhold the required amounts as long as the amount does not exceed 50% of the employee’s net disposable earnings. If there is insufficient income to pay both an IRS levy and a current support order, the employer can contact the IRS to see if the agency will accommodate a change in its levy. Furthermore, the agency that issued the child support order should be made aware of the existence of a federal tax levy.

Protection from Discrimination

It is against the Oregon law for an employer to fire (or discriminate, demote) an employee because the employee has a child support withholding order. If there is a violation, the employer can be subject to a $1,000 fine, as well as a civil suit by the employee. The employee may recover compensatory damages from the employer.

Getting Legal Help

If you have any questions about Oregon wage garnishment limits or child support orders, contact an experienced Oregon child support attorney.