Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Should a Texas Employer Handle a Wage Withholding Order/Notice?

You’ve just received a document entitled “Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support,” or some similar title, related to one of your employees.  Now what?

First, do not ignore this document! A Texas employer who knowingly fails to withhold court-ordered child support may be subject to a $200 fine for each pay period during which it failed to withhold income and remit child support to the appropriate agency. You are required to begin deducting for child support during the first pay period following your receipt of this Order/Notice.

Under Section 158.206 of the Texas Family Code, you are NOT LIABLE to your employee if you comply with the Order/Notice. In fact, you could be liable to your employee for the amounts you failed to withhold if you do not comply with the order. So put this document on the top of your “to do” list.

Next, read the Order/Notice carefully. In Texas, almost every child support payment must be made through the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Child Support Division’s State Disbursement Unit (“SDU”). You may, on occasion, be ordered to remit payment to another government agency. It is extremely unlikely that you will be ordered to make child support payments directly to an individual or his/her attorney. Follow the directions concerning the amount to be withheld, the place to remit payment, and the information to be provided. If you employ more than 50 persons, you may be required to remit payment by electronic funds transfer.

Next, check your payroll records. In Texas, you cannot withhold more than 50% of your employee’s “disposable earnings” – which means the part that remains after mandatory deductions for social security, medicare, federal income taxes, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical/hospitalization/disability insurance coverage for the employee and the employee’s children. If the Order/Notice is close to or exceeds that amount, seek guidance from your friendly neighborhood employment law attorney or another Human Resources professional.

As an employer, you can also deduct a $10 per month processing fee, in addition to the amount to be withheld as child support.

Withholding orders for child support have priority over any other garnishments, attachments, writs of execution or other judgments affecting the employee’s disposable earnings. If you have received multiple orders related to an employee’s wages, seek guidance.

Special rules also apply for withholding from an employee’s workers’ compensation benefits, severance pay, and any lump-sum payments (such as bonuses or payment in lieu of accrued leave). In these situations, you should also seek further guidance.

By:  Cynthia W. Veidt,