The Family Support Act of 1988 requires all court orders for child support include a wage and earnings assignment. The wage assignment is mandatory. All noncustodial parents must pay by wage assignment.
The noncustodial parent’s employer is served with an Order/Notice to Withhold (wage assignment) for a specified amount of current support (and sometimes a payment for past due child support). The Order/Notice to Withhold includes instructions to send the withheld wages to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The employer must deduct child support payments directly from the noncustodial parent’s salary or wages.
Self-employed noncustodial parents are still obligated to deduct the child support amount from their wages as directed in the wage assignment. Independent contractors should confirm their wage assignment with their employers.
Employers must report all newly hired employees to the state Directory of New Hires. For information about reporting new employees in California, please call the New Employee Registry Hotline at 916-657-0529. For employers in other states, contact your state employment office.
If the employer fails to withhold income as the Order/Notice to Withhold directs, the employer may be liable for the accumulated amount that should have been withheld from the employee’s income and may also be subject to contempt of court charges.
The Department of Child Support services will issue a non-compliance letter to employers 45 days after:
- Payments stop coming to DCSS for an existing wage assignment.
- A new wage assignment is sent and no payments are received.
Employers can be subject to a fine determined under State law for discharging an employee from employment, refusing to employ, or taking disciplinary action against any employee because of a child support withholding.
An employer may not take more than 50 percent of the noncustodial parent’s net earnings after taxes. If the employee does not have sufficient earnings to satisfy the Order/Notice to Withhold, the deductions should be taken in the following sequence:
- Current monthly child, family and/or spousal support
- Current monthly health premiums and/or other current medical support
- Payment of court ordered support arrears
- Any remaining ordered amounts
Once a wage assignment is served, income withholding is to continue until the employee is no longer employed or until the employer is notified by the Department of Child Support Services to terminate or suspend the withholding. The employee does not have the authority to stop the withholding. If the employee disagrees with or wants to change the withholding amount, advise the employee to contact the department.
Employees may have more than one wage assignment order. The orders can be from different counties and/or for different children. In most cases, the current child support obligation is given first priority. Contact the Department of Child Support Services to research the matter and give advice on how to proceed. If the wage assignments are for the same children but from different counties and include ongoing child support, a determination will be made regarding which county has jurisdiction.
Employers often must withhold wages for several employees. In these cases the employer may combine the withholdings into one consolidated check. However, the employer must include an itemized accounting of the following information:
- Employee names
- Employee social security numbers
- Withholding dates
- Amount withheld for each child support case number
If the employer is withholding child support based on an Order/Notice to Withhold and receives an order from the FTB, contact the Department of Child Support Services. If appropriate, the department will work with the FTB to withdraw its order.
The department’s automated system receives data from many different sources and may send repetitive documents. If the document is a copy of a previously received document it may be discarded. However, before discarding, please check the following:
- Make sure the document is not new or amended
- Verify the court order number is the same as the previous Order/Notice to Withhold
- Ensure the children are the same as on the previous Order/Notice to Withhold
Sign up for Electronic Income Withholding Orders (e-IWO). The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), in partnership with state child support agencies, public and private-sector employers, and payroll processors has developed this FREE and efficient method that allows employers to electronically:
- Receive Income Withholding Orders (IWOs)
- Acknowledge acceptance or rejection of IWOs
- Notify the child support agencies of employee terminations
- Inform child support agencies of lump sum and bonus payments
Go to www.childsup.ca.gov, click on Employer, and then select Electronic Income Withholding Orders. To receive employer news and updates, select Employer Subscription.
Payments must be made payable to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU) and mailed to PO Box 989067 West Sacramento, CA 95798 within 10 days of the date they are deducted from the employee’s wages. The SDU will allocate the payments to the noncustodial parent’s accounts.
Please include the following with each payment:
- Date of collection
- Case number
- First and last name of the employee
If the employee terminates, State law requires the employer to inform the child support agency immediately of the following information:
- Child support agency case number
- Date of separation/termination
- Last known home address and contact phone number
- If known, the new employer’s name and address