Can child support take my whole paycheck?
Your child support deductions likely won’t be your whole paycheck but, depending on the support the courts are requiring you to pay, a large chunk can be subtracted from your paycheck.
A calculated monthly amount will first be deducted from your pay, along with other required items like state and federal taxes.
If you still owe any past due child support payments after these deductions are made, your check can have more money taken from it. According to federal law, a maximum of 65% of your remaining paycheck can be withheld for past due child support.
This is a huge amount of money to possibly be withheld. Luckily, some states have lower withholding percentages than the federal maximum.
While 65% is the highest amount that can be deducted, this percentage can be lower based on factors such as how far past due your arrears are and if you are financially supporting a second family.
The overall amount deducted from your paycheck will be determined after mandatory deductions such as your monthly child support and taxes.
So, for example, if your paycheck is $300.00 and $100.00 is taken from your paycheck for mandatory tax deductions, this leaves $200.00 in eligible income for your past due child support garnishments to be deducted from. If your situation requires you to pay the maximum 65% on this eligible $200.00, then your child support garnishment would be $130.00, leaving you with $70.00.
Keep in mind, this is just an example using the highest range of withholding percentages. Your circumstances may be much different, depending on how much you owe in past due support payments and if you are the breadwinner for a second family.
How do child support paycheck deductions work?
Child support payments can be deducted from your paycheck as a result of a court order. This occurs when the court considers you the “noncustodial parent” who is responsible for contributing to his or her child’s day-to-day financials, called the monthly support obligation.
As the noncustodial parent, this means you do not have primary custody of your child but still need to contribute to their food, clothing or educational needs.
Now, the amount you pay monthly in child support is determined by a judge and the factors that go into this decision are your wage, the other guardian’s wage and the financial needs of the child, such as tuition or medical insurance.
Your monthly child support payment is based on a set calculation made by your state. Each is different (and quite complex), but the usual considerations that make up your monthly support payments are your wage, the other guardian’s wage and the number of children being supported. Other factors a judge may take into consideration are the childrens’ financial needs.
Your employer will be notified of the amount you need to pay in child support and then this amount will be deducted from your paycheck and sent to the state to be distributed to your child.
Do past due child support payments come out of my paycheck?
When child support payments are missed, this is considered child support back pay, past due child support or arrearments. This is considered a debt and can be deducted from your wages. The deduction of past due child support from your paycheck is often called a garnishment.
You will be garnished for these past due amounts again if a court believes that this is the only way for you to pay or catch up on the balance. A garnishment is subtracted from your paycheck after your monthly child support amount is deducted.
Once more, the court will notify your employer of the garnishment, and from there, your company will deduct the proper amount and send it to the state to be paid to your child.
Another thing to keep in mind is that child support back pay accrues interest and this interest rate is set by your state. If you owe a lot of past due child support, the amount due to your child will be a bit higher than you anticipated because of this interest.
Am I required to pay child support through a paycheck deduction/garnishment?
Since this deduction from your wages is a court order you are required by law to have this money taken from your paycheck. This is often put in place to ensure that child support payments are guaranteed to be made and cannot be lost in the mail, shortchanged or generally forgotten.
If you don’t follow the child support order from the court, you can be punished by the court in a number of ways, including suspension of your driver license, passport denial, a tax return seizure, property liens or even jail time. Needless to say, it is best to make sure you pay your child support payments no matter how the money is distributed.
Can child support take half of my paycheck?
As we discussed previously, the amount that can be taken from your paycheck after your monthly child support balance can vary based on how much past due child support (arrears) you owe.
Federally, the limit that can be garnished from your paycheck for child support arrears is 50% to support a second family if you are less than 12 weeks in arrears on your child support payments.
If these circumstances don’t apply to you – for example, you are single or more than 12 weeks in arrears – then your withholding percentage will likely be higher. Again, though, there are some states with a lower minimum percentage.
One thing to keep in mind with all these large numbers rolling around is that these garnishments are only applied to your paycheck while you owe arrears.
Once your child support arrears have been paid in full, you will only have your monthly child support deductions taken from your paycheck. Your company must follow the court orders, so your employer has no say about when the arrears of your child support will be paid.
Can child support be more than my paycheck?
While, legally, your entire paycheck cannot be garnered, it can certainly feel that way. In situations where your paychecks are being garnished to the point that you are unable to maintain necessities such as rent or gas to drive to work, it may be time to request a review of your child support payments.
Courts take into account your child’s needs, but they also take your situation into account as well. If you can show a judge you are willing to pay or catch up on any owed arrears but need some leniency on the amount or frequency of payments, you may be able to have the amount of the garnishment or monthly support payments lowered.
Does child support come out of my paycheck before taxes?
Any monthly child support payments or garnishments will be deducted from your paycheck after taxes are taken out. This includes your federal and state taxes.
Other deductions you may see come out before your child support can include social security contributions, required retirement plans, medical insurance, disability insurance and union dues. These additional deductions will depend on your employer and state rulings.
How long does it take to garnish wages?
Once your employer receives the court order for your garnishment it must immediately begin the process of withholding from your checks. Many times these deductions will take effect on your next scheduled paycheck. The reason this process moves so quickly is that the court often requires your employer to confirm the garnishment has been processed.
Can I be fired if my employer receives a garnishment order?
You cannot be fired for having one garnishment order on your paycheck. This is a federal law that protects employees. However, if you have two or more garnishment orders on your paycheck, then your employer does have the right to end your employment with them.
There are some states that provide protections for employees with multiple garnishments and your company may not see a reason to let you go for having multiple garnishments.
Some companies, however, may consider this option if you work closely with the finances of the organization, seem distracted on the job from possible money concerns or if they feel the number of garnishment calculations is a burden.
If you feel that this could be a possibility, it may be beneficial to speak with your manager or HR representative at the company. Be honest with them about your garnishments and your desire to not only do well in your job but to use these garnishments as an opportunity to fulfill your financial obligations.
This open channel of communication can help your employer understand your need to keep your job and better understand your personal situation straight from you, not a court order.
What happens if my employer does not send in child support payments?
While your employer is responsible for sending your child support payments and garnishments to the state, you are ultimately responsible for making sure the payment makes it to your child.
While this is stressful, it’s important to know this responsibility. If your employer does not send the funds for some reason, you still need to pay the child support to keep from falling behind.
Sometimes, these missed payments by your company may be the result of office turnover or a clerical error. If you notice child support funds were taken but not paid to the state, be sure to immediately notify your company so they can send these funds over.
Normally notifying your employer will be enough to correct the issue but it is still important to retain copies of your pay stubs to show the child support deductions have been taken from your paycheck. This proves useful in the unfortunate event you have to take your employer to court for not passing along the deductions on a regular basis.
Child support as an independent contractor.
Being an independent contractor means you don’t have a payroll team processing your deductions for you. This doesn’t mean you are off the hook for paying any court-ordered child support.
In this case, you are now responsible for manually paying your child support. This requires you to send your payments each month to the state or guardian of your child. If you do not send your payments as required, you will likely face one of the many punishments that the court can hand down for child support cases.
So while being an independent contractor may mean more money or the ability to practice in your chosen profession, it also means you are responsible for maintaining any child support payments or garnishments on your own.
If this is your situation and you are not 100% sure about the process, it may be helpful to reach out to an attorney or financial consultant to help guide you in how the process, calculations and documentation works.
How does child support work if I live in a different state than my child?
When you do not work in the same state that your child lives in, your child support deductions will work in two ways.
Child support will be paid for as long – and for as much – as the state that gave you the court order requires. You will not, however, be garnished over the maximum percentage for the state you live in. It will only be deducted for your state’s required deductions.
So, for example, if you work in Idaho and your child support order comes from California, your paycheck will be deducted for the amount the California judge determines is your monthly payment. You will not, however, have to pay the mandatory deductions that California requires. Instead, you will pay for what Idaho requires, which are simply state and federal taxes. If you were also being garnished for child support arrears, you would only be garnished at Idaho’s rate rather than California’s.
Find your state’s child support information
If you would like to know more about your state’s child support withholding practices, such as specific garnishment percentages or mandatory deductions that will come out of a paycheck before child support, you can find that information here. If you have further questions about child support and how it affects you, be sure to check out our companion article, that discusses paying child support when you are unemployed.
This article is not intended to serve as legal advice. When considering your child support options, you should seek the advice of legal counsel.