Virginia Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections

Virginia wage garnishment law strictly follows the limits set forth in the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). The CCPA limits wage garnishment of an employee's disposable earnings by setting maximum garnishment limits. These garnishment limits must be followed even if the employee is subject to another support order, or any other withholding order. This article explains how to allocate and prioritize orders in cases where the employee does not have enough allowable disposable earnings to cover all payments. Further, while wage garnishment can mean extra work for an employer, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an individual on the basis of a support order.

Garnishment Limits and Exemptions

Virginia, like many other states, follows the CCPA when determining the garnishment limits on a noncustodial parent's disposable earnings. First, the employer should make the deductions required by law from the employee's wages. The CCPA limits these deductions to federal, state, and local withholding taxes; Social Security and Medicare taxes; mandatory deduction for state-run disability or unemployment insurance; mandatory deductions for a state-run pension fund for public-sector employees, and mandatory contributions under the Railroad Retirement Act. Once these deductions are made, you are left with the employee's "disposable earnings." These disposable earnings are subject to the following withholding limits under the CCPA:

  • 50% if the employee supports a second family;
  • 55% if the employee supports a second family and owes more than twelve weeks of back payments for a support order;
  • 60% if the employee does not support a second family; and
  • 65% if the employee does not support a second family and does not owe more than twelve weeks of back payments for a support order.

If an employee is subject to more than one order, and the maximum allowable limit differs in each order, use the higher number. For example, if support order X says that 50% must be withheld, and support order Y says that 55% must be held, withhold 55% for both X and Y.

Allocation and Priority

An employer may receive two or more support orders for the same employee. If the employee does not have enough allowable disposable earnings to make all payments in full, the employer should allocate the payments as follows, according to the directions of the National Medical Support Notice (NMSN):

  • Generally, current support should be deducted before medical premiums and arrears. When this is the case, allocate the current support through the pro rata method. This method is based on the ratio that the current support payment holds of the total amount of allowable disposable earnings. If there are any disposable earnings left over, the employer should withhold any medical premiums before withholding for arrears.
  • Depending on the date of the order, medical premiums may take priority. In this case, deduct for the premiums first, and then prorate the current support, followed by arrears, from the remaining disposable earnings.

When an employer receives a support order as well as another type of withholding order for an employee, they should generally withhold for the support order first. An order of support has priority over any other order issued by a state, no matter when that order was issued in relation to the support order. As of October 17, 2005, an order for support also takes priority over a withholding order for Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment as well. However, if an employee is assigned a support order and a levy issued by the IRS, the employer should withhold for the levy first. The IRS is often sympathetic to orders for support, so the employer can attempt to contact the agent listed on the levy to see if they will accommodate the order. The employer should make sure to get any such agreement in writing, and inform the court or agency issuing the support order about the levy.

Protection from Discrimination

An employer who discriminates against an individual on the basis of a support order by demoting, refusing to hire, terminating, or through any other disciplinary action may be subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000 in Virginia.