Collection of court-ordered child support and spousal support is a major national problem. It tends to be much less of a problem when the couple has agreed on the support amount(s), perhaps through divorce mediation. If you want to try to guarantee support payments from an employed payer, the best way is through garnishing their wages.
Garnishing works essentially as follows:
- Prepare a “wage assignment” form for the court to sign off on.
- The court signs the form, making it a wage assignment order.
- Serve the order on the employer of the payer.
- After a few weeks you should start receiving payments.
- Thereafter you’ll get paid when the employee does.
If there’s child support, use form FL-195. You can also include spousal support on this form. If it’s just spousal support, use form FL-435. The FL-195 is complicated so you’ll probably want to get help in filling it out correctly.
The wage assignment order can be used for present and future employers of the payer. The employer will withhold up to 50% of the payer’s wages each pay period to make support payments.
Even if you’ve reached an agreement on support, you can still do steps 1 and 2 above and hold off on serving the employer with the wage assignment order unless there is a payment problem.
It’s also possible to agree on a formal court-ordered “stay” of the order, which puts service on the employer on hold. If you do this and a payment problem develops, the support recipient just needs to file a declaration with the court saying payment(s) are late to get the stay lifted.
If the payer changes jobs often, is often unemployed or might be hard to chase down for child support payments, consider getting the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) involved. Open a case with them and make your Wage Assignment Order payable to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU will forward the support payments to you. The DCSS will help as needed with enforcement of the Wage Assignment Order.
Garnishing does add complication when the recipient moves and when the payer terminates employment or changes jobs. It also adds complication when the child support amount changes and when payments are supposed to stop.