Failing to pay child support can mean serious penalties. The most common of these penalties is wage garnishment. When the courts result to wage garnishment, they can order your employer and your bank to withhold a portion of your paycheck and pay it directly towards your child support. This can happen even if you are self-employed, and no matter how many jobs you have. If you are behind on your child support payments, be sure to talk to an attorney about your options. The Ventura child support lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth offer free consultations to help with your case. Additionally, if your children’s other parent is failing to pay support, our California family lawyers can help you understand your options to enforce the child support order.
California Wage Assignment Laws
In California, most child support is already paid by wage garnishment, also known as “wage assignment.” If it is not already paid this way, the child support recipient can usually ask that the court order wage garnishment. Especially in cases of unpaid or underpaid child support, courts are often willing to order wage garnishment.
When wages are to be garnished, the court orders your employee to withhold child support straight from your paycheck. This can occur for multiple payments, including spousal support, back taxes, and other financial issues, but child support payments come first. This means that even if other wage garnishment issues exist, child support gets paid first.
California’s State Disbursement Unit and perhaps a local child support agency (LCSA) are responsible for receiving your pay from your employer and sending it to the child support recipient. There are legal requirements and court orders that your employer needs to follow, so often there is no way to interfere with this process by asking your boss not to withhold the pay.
Since garnishment is required in most cases, it is difficult to get it stopped or avoid it. Sometimes, you may be able to form an agreement with the other parent that avoids garnishment, or you can ask a judge to place the garnishment on hold or reverse the child support order. However, this can only happen under certain circumstances including:
- Clerical errors requesting support from the wrong person;
- Continual, on-time payments (along with other factors);
- Paychecks have been undeliverable/lost in the mail; or
- Garnishment creates an undue hardship for you.
Ultimately, getting around garnishment is only typically possible with a perfect record, or agreement to avoid wage assignment.
Wage Garnishment with Two Jobs in California
California wage garnishment often assumes that everyone only has one job – which can create some strange circumstances. In some cases, since the wage garnishment order could be valid against any of your employers, the courts may send a wage garnishment order to each employer you have. However, this does not necessarily mean you would pay double the child support.
Child support calculations are based on your total income, and should reflect the amount that you make from multiple jobs. When calculating how much of your wage can be garnished, the State is limited. Courts can take, at most, 25% of your after-tax income.
Alternatively, courts must leave you with at least minimum wage after garnishing your wages. Minimum wage in California in 2017 is $10.50 per hour, and after a 40-hour work week, would be $420. This means California cannot take so much money that they leave you with less than that amount.
For example, if you take home $900 per week (after taxes), courts may take the lesser of:
- 25% of this ($225 dollars), or
- Enough to leave you with $420 (which would be $480).
Courts are only allowed to take the lesser option, meaning they would be able to garnish a maximum of $225 in the example above. If, instead, the order was given to two different jobs, each job would presumably have a lower income.
For instance, imagine you work two jobs, and take home $450 every weak from each job (for a total of $900). In this case, the government would be allowed to garnish:
- 25% from each job ($112.50 from each job, for a total of $225); or
- Enough to leave you with $420 from each job ($30 from each job, for a total of $60).
In this example, the payor would only pay $60 instead of the $225 above.
Since each job gets the same garnishment order, they will only be able to take small amounts from smaller paychecks. This could ultimately save you money rather than doubling the amount you pay.
Talk to an attorney to understand whether this kind of payment is appropriate. If the court made a second garnishment order in error, or intended to request the total wage garnishment from one employer, you could face serious penalties for not reporting this. Always talk to an attorney to understand whether having two jobs could place you in violation of child support orders.
Ventura, California Child Support Lawyers
The Ventura family lawyers at Bamieh and De Smeth represent mothers and fathers on child support cases. Whether you are paying or receiving child support, our attorneys may be able to help you understand what the courts can do to help you improve your child support situation. Call (805) 585-5056 today for a free consultation with our lawyers.