- What is an "
income withholding order
" for child support?
An income withholding order is an order for a specified amount of child support to be paid by withholding income from your employee's paycheck. All child support orders entered in Massachusetts must include a provision for immediate income withholding unless the court suspends the withholding. If the parent who pays support has a regular source of income, then the income withholding order requires child support to be deducted from the income. Deducting child support from an employee's paycheck is similar to deducting tax payments. When DOR is notified of a new child support order, it issues an "Order/Notice of Order to Withhold Income for Child Support" (a form mandated by federal law). The link above shows an example of the form.
- Who determines the amount of an income withholding order?
In Massachusetts, a judge determines the amount of child support to be paid. If the employee has fallen behind in child support payments, Massachusetts law authorizes DOR to increase the order by 25% without going back to court to ask the judge to change it. DOR will send you a new income withholding order if there is any change to the amount you are deducting.
- How will I know if one of my employees has an income withholding order for child support?
Once a judge orders child support, either the court or DOR will send you an income withholding order. In addition, any employee who is ordered to pay child support through income withholding is required by law to notify you and to provide you with a copy of the income withholding order, upon your request.
- When should I start to withhold child support payments?
You must begin withholding child support from your employee's paycheck immediately, starting with the first payroll date following your receipt of the income withholding order.
- Will my employee know why the income is being withheld?
Yes. The court or DOR will inform your employee of the income withholding order. If he or she claims not to have received notice of the order, or has disputes with the amount being deducted, advise your employee to contact DOR. Under no circumstances, however, may you delay processing the income withholding order. If you fail to honor the order, you may be liable not only for the full amount of the income that you failed to withhold and remit, but also for civil penalty equal to the amount you failed to remit or $500, whichever is greater. Notice from DOR of the income withholding order is sufficient notice to you. DOR is not required to provide a copy of the court order for the support.
- Do I deduct child support payments only from an employee's wage or salary?
No. You must deduct child support payments from any source of periodic compensation your employee receives, including bonuses, commissions, severance pay, and payments to independent contractors and others.
- Is there a limit on the amount of child support I can deduct from an employee's paycheck?
Yes. The limit of child support deducted depends on certain circumstances. Pursuant to the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), you cannot deduct more than 60% of an employee's disposable earnings (50% if the employee is supporting a spouse or other children in his or her household). If, however, an employee is 12 or more weeks behind in child support payments, the limits increase to 65% and 55% respectively.
- What are an employee's "disposable earnings?"
Disposable earnings are the earnings remaining after you deduct federal, state and local income taxes, Social Security, state unemployment insurance taxes, and any deduction required under a state employment retirement system.
- What if an employee has other deductions and the income withholding order will make the total deductions exceed the allowable limit?
Child support payments must be deducted from an employee's disposable earnings before any other deductions, including union dues, credit union deductions, or voluntary retirement deductions. You apply the limit only if the child support order itself exceeds the permissible percentage.
- How long does an income withholding order remain in effect?
An income withholding order remains in effect until the court, DOR, or your employee provides you with written verification that the court order has terminated or has been modified.
- If I overpay child support, may I deduct that amount for the next payment?
No. You are under obligation to remit to DOR the amount ordered by the court. If you think you overpaid on a child support case, contact our Employer Services Unit immediately.
- What happens if there in an income withholding order and the employee stops working for my company?
When an individual who is subject to an income withholding order stops working for your company you should: (1) notify DOR that the individual no longer works for your company; (2) provide DOR with any information you have concerning the name and address of the individual's new employer. This information can be given to DOR by calling our Employer Services Unit or by adding it to the Employer Remittance Form (ERF). In addition, you must advise the individual of his or her legal obligation to notify the court and DOR of any subsequent employment.
- What should I do when my company lays off an employee who is subject to an income withholding order?
You must notify DOR immediately when the employee is laid off. If the employee returns to your company within 30 days after the lay-off, you should begin deducting child support payments immediately according to the income withholding order and notify DOR of the employee's return to work. If the employee returns after more than 30 days, you should follow the instructions for submitting new hire reports and include the employee in the report.
- What should I do if a seasonal employee is subject to an income withholding order and the employment ends?
You must notify DOR when the employment ends and provide DOR with any information you have concerning the name and address of the individual's new employer. You should also advise the individual of his or her legal obligation to notify the court or DOR of any subsequent employment. If the individual returns to work for your company, you should follow the instructions for submitting new hire reports and include the employee in this report.
- Am I legally obligated to implement the income withholding order for child support?
Yes. You are subject to the following penalties if you fail to implement an income withholding order:
1. Full responsibility for the amount of income you failed to withhold and remit; and
2. A civil penalty equal to the amount you failed to remit or $500, whichever is greater.
- Can I fire or refuse to hire an employee because he or she is subject to an income withholding order?
No. State and federal laws prohibit you from disciplining or refusing to hire anyone because of an income withholding order. If you violate these laws, you are liable for the payment of all wages and employment benefits lost by an employee or individual from the time of the unlawful discipline, suspension, refusal to hire, or discharge, to the period of reinstatement, and an additional penalty of up to $1,000.
- What happens to an employee who fails to make child support payments?
The employee may be held in contempt of court. Additionally, when DOR is providing services to enforce the order, DOR is authorized to use a variety of methods to collect past due child support payments, including liens, levies and/or seizure of the employee's assets. An employee who is delinquent in child support payments may also have his or her tax refunds intercepted and credit rating affected. In some instances, an employee may face criminal prosecution for failing to support his or her child. Massachusetts law also authorizes DOR to increase the order by 25% when a child support debt accrues. DOR will send you notice of when to increase the amount withheld.
- What if I get an income withholding order from another state?
An income withholding order issued by one state may be sent directly to the parent's employer in another state. You must honor an order if it is substantially similar to the "Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support" DOR issues. In addition, you must give a copy of the order to the employee immediately. You must send the child support payment to the address of the state child support payment processing center that appears on the income withholding order, and you must continue to honor the notice until official notice is received from the child support enforcement agency or the court of the state that issued the order. NOTE: You may not consolidate into the payment you send to DOR any payments being made pursuant to an order from another state.
- Can I handle all child support payments I deduct from my employee's paychecks the same way?
You can send all child support payments you withhold to DOR if DOR sent you an income withholding order for the employee. If DOR has not sent you an income withholding order, but the employee or Massachusetts court sent you the order, you can send the payment to DOR if you provide a copy of the income withholding order and the name, Social Security numbers and addresses of the employee and the parent to receive the support. If you receive a withholding order from another state, you must honor that order and send the amount withheld to the other state's child support payment processing center whose address on the income withholding order.
- What information do I need to provide to send child support payments through DOR?
For each case in which you have not previously sent an employee's child support payment through DOR, you must send us the employee's name, address, Social Security number, and a copy of the most recent income withholding order. Additionally, you must provide us with the names of the parent receiving support and all dependent children. You do not need to send any new information for those employees whose child support payments you already send to DOR.
- How does consolidating child support payments benefit my company?
You will have to send only one check to cover all child support payments made by income withholding, as long as you provide DOR with sufficient identifying information for any new case. If you provide accurate information, DOR will process all child support payments made by income withholding orders.
- What if I do not have all the information DOR needs to process payments?
If you do not have sufficient identifying information, you should work with your employee to get the information. If your employee cannot provide the necessary information, please have your employee contact DOR at 800-332-2733 (617-660-1234 for local callers) or send an e-mail to email@example.com
- Where can I find the law governing income withholding orders for child support in Massachusetts?
You can find information about income withholding for child support in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 119A, Section 12.