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Wage Assignment

UPDATED: April 13, 2012

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Wage assignment, or income deduction order, is when a court directs the employer of a non-custodial parent to deduct the amount of child support from the parent's income. In order to ensure that child support orders are enforced, the federal government has issued a vareity of directives to the states requiring them to implement enforcement initiatives to make sure child support payments are made. Read further for more information on wage assignment for child support.

How Does Wage Assignment Work?

In order to comply with the federal directive, all states operate some type of child support enforcement program responsible for the collection of court-ordered child support, usually through a social services agency. The purpose of the wage assignment is to ensure that the child receives the support money on a timely basis. It also provides the non-custodial parent with a record of payments so that there can be no dispute over missing payments. It is important for the non-custodial parent to check the child support statement against the record of payments to make sure the payments are properly credited.

The wage assignment is served on the employer, who is required to comply with the terms of the order. The employer must deduct the amount set forth in the order and send the payments to the child support agency designated to receive the payments. The child support agency is required to send the payment directly to the custodial parent. The employer may be entitled to charge a small administrative fee for processing the payments. It is against the law for an employer to fire an employee because of a court-ordered wage assignment.

What Can Impact Wage Assignment?

If the non-custodial parent changes jobs, he must notify the child support agency so that the new employer can begin making the wage assignment payments. If the non-custodial parent becomes unemployed and receives unemployment compensation, the child support payment will generally be deducted from the unemployment benefits. If the non-custodial parent is not receiving unemployment benefits, he is still required to make child support payments, however, it is advisable to report the loss of income to the court in order to have the child support order adjusted accordingly.

A wage assignment is only available if the non-custodial parent is a salaried employee. If the non-custodial parent is self-employed or is otherwise not subject to wage withholding, he may be ordered to submit child support payments directly to the child support agency. If the non-custodial parent does not make the required payments, the amount owed may be deducted from the non-custodial parent’s federal and state income tax refunds. In addition, liens may be placed on the non-custodial parent’s property and the property may be sold to satisfy the child support owed.

The non-custodial parent cannot escape the obligation to pay child support by moving to another state because all states are required to pursue child support enforcement against out-of-state non-custodial parents. Each state has its own form of interstate enforcement legislation, such as the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), which provides for the enforcement of support orders across state lines.

Wage Assignment Duration

The wage assignment continues until the obligation to pay child support ends, whether there is a change in custody, the non-custodial parent dies, or the child becomes emancipated. Emancipation occurs when the child reaches the state’s age of majority, which is eighteen in the majority of states. Emancipation may also occur if the child marries, joins the armed services, or otherwise leaves the care and control of the custodial parent. However, if the child returns to live with the custodial parent before reaching the age of majority, the obligation to pay child support generally resumes and the non-custodial parent’s income will again be subject to a wage assignment.

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