Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 10, 2011

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A noncustodial parent that is assigned a support order should be aware that any source of income received is subject to wage garnishment in California. Once they are served, an employer is required by law to enforce orders for California child support collection. While this means they are required to garnish the wages of their employee, they are not bound by law to report any lump-sum payments to the California Department of Child Support Services. As detailed in this article, failure to enforce a support order can lead to harsh penalties for a California employer.

Income Subject to Withholding for Child Support Garnishment

In California, you must consider any type of income to be subject to child support collection. This includes any payments due to you as an employee or independent contractor, as well as interest, dividends, rents, royalties, residuals, patent rights, mineral resource rights, payments due to you from oral contracts, public employee vacation credits, and any other payments owed, no matter the source.

However, withholding of some of this income is subject to limitations. Income defined by the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) as “earnings” can only be garnished up to a certain percentage. Such “earnings” include wages, salary, bonuses, money, and retirement benefits for both private and public sector employees. Once the deductions required by law are made from these earnings, the “disposable earnings” that are left are protected by the CCPA withholding limits. If the employee pays union dues as a condition of their employment, these are not included within this maximum percentage.

Bonuses and Other Lump Sum Payments

California law encourages employers to report any lump-sum payments owed to the employee subject to a support order to the agency that issued the order. However, reporting is not required, and California law does not even specifically define “lump-sum.”

Termination of Employment

When an employee ends their working relationship with an employer or retires, the employer must immediately send a copy of the order to the Department of Child Support Services, and/or the contact person listed on the order. The employer must include the company name, the employee name and address, the date of termination, and the address of the new employer, if known.

Administrative Fees

While there will be administrative costs associated with the enforcement of a support order, an employer in California may not charge more than a $1.50 administrative fee per deduction. Further, this fee must come out of the employee’s wages, and not the deduction made for the support order. Additionally, the total amount deducted from the employee’s wages can never amount to more than California’s withholding limitation.

Penalty for Noncompliance

The employer is bound by law to enforce a support order. If the employer fails to withhold deductions from the employee’s paycheck, the employer becomes liable to the support obligee for the money owed. If the employer fails to deduct the money owed for the support order for three pay periods within a twelve month span, the employer’s bank account will be garnished. If the employer deducts the payments from the employee’s wages but fails to remit them to the issuing agency or the State Disbursement Unit, the employer will be held liable for any payments owed, plus interest.

California State Office of Child Support – Contact Information

Department of Child Support Services

Customer and Community Services Bureau

P.O. Box 419064

Rancho Cordova, CA. 95741-9064

Phone: (916) 464-5050

Fax: (916) 464-5065

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