Texas Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections
UPDATED: April 10, 2011
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While Texas uses the Consumer Credit Protection Act's (CCPA) definition of earnings to determine which earnings are subject to garnishment limits, Texas garnishment law protects an employee's disposable income more than the CCPA limits. Texas child support garnishment limits are more favorable to the employee than they are in many other states. Furthermore, even if the employee is subject to more than one order, the Texas garnishment limits can never be exceeded. In such cases, the employer will allocate current support so that each order is paid a certain percentage of the allowable disposable earnings of the employee.
Garnishment Limits and Exemptions
While all forms of income are subject to Texas child support garnishment, any income defined as "earnings" by the CCPA is protected by a withholding limit. The CCPA defines "earnings" as any income that is paid or payable for personal services. Before applying the withholding limit to these earnings, you must first subtract all of the deductions required by law. The earnings remaining after these deductions are called "disposable earnings." Aside from subtracting deductions required by law, the Texas Attorney General's Office also allows union dues, medical, hospitalization, and disability insurance coverage through an employer to be deducted and not included within "disposable earnings." However, other voluntary deductions made from "earnings," like 401k payments, are included within the "disposable earnings" total.
As a result of the additional deductions, Texas' withholding limits are more favorable to the employee than the initial CCPA limits. The maximum an employer can withhold for support from an employee's disposable earnings is 50%. The withholding limit for lump-sum payments is 50% as well.
Allocation and Priority
If an employer is assigned more than one writ of withholding for a particular employee, Texas law requires that each writ is paid in equal amounts until they are fully complied with. If there are available disposable earnings left, equal amounts must be paid to spousal maintenance orders, then child support arrearages, then to spousal support arrearages. Remember that even when an employee is subject to more than one support order, the employer should never withhold more than the maximum allowed by Texas law.
Sometimes an employer will receive another type of withholding order in addition to the writ of withholding for support for the same employee. Support orders take priority over any other state-issued order, and the employer must withhold for the support order first. As of October 17, 2005, support orders also take priority over Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayments. IRS levies, however, take priority over support orders. The IRS is sensitive to support orders, and if contacted, will sometimes accommodate the order if the employee does not have enough allowable disposable income to pay both. If the IRS agrees to accommodate the support order, the employer should get the IRS agreement in writing, then contact the support order's issuing agency to alert it of the IRS levy.
Protection from Discrimination
It is against the law in Texas to terminate, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against an employee for being assigned a writ of withholding. If an employer does discriminate, they will be liable to the employee for current wages, benefits, and attorneys' costs and fees.