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Wage Garnishment for Child Support

Wage garnishment, also known as wage attachment, is an official order from a government or official agency that automatically withholds money from your paycheck. Although employers may feel inconvenienced, they should not be able to fire you on inconvenience alone. Unlike a late car payment or doctor's bill, creditors do not need a court order to garnish your wages for child support. For over 15 years all court ordered child support agreements in Arizona have come with an automatic income withholding order. There are limits to wage garnishment, but unlike student loan debt that can only take 15% of your disposable income, limits for child support are much higher. If you are remarried or have another child, up to 50% of your disposable can be taken. If you are not remarried and are not supporting another child, then up to 60% of your disposable income may be taken.

Consequences for failure to pay child support

Wage garnishment is usually the first step in cases where the parent has failed to pay child support. However now both state and federal government agencies may aggressively pursue what you owe. Popular tactics include publicly humiliating repeat offenders with websites and newspaper ads and denial or suspension of your Driver's License and/or U.S. Passport. Your tax refund may also be intercepted and used to pay your outstanding debt. In addition your failure to pay child support will be reflected on your credit report- damaging your ability to borrow money or finance necessities like a car or house. An egregious offender can even face jail time for failure to pay- this will often occur after the parent repeatedly misses payments and owes several thousand dollars.

But what if your financial circumstances change?

Particularly in today's unstable socioeconomic climate, it is not uncommon that child support or spousal support payments can suddenly become an impossible financial burden. If you were forced to move to a lesser paying job, demoted, or lost your job altogether then it may be in your best interest to speak to an attorney familiar with child support for a post judgement modification. An attorney should be able to help you reconsolidate your child support payments in to a more reasonable amount to reflect your financial circumstances.

Can they seize my property for late child support?

If you fall in to particularly dire financial straights, the other party may place a lien against your property. Anything of value can be taken, including: stocks, houses, cars and even dividends or income from a rental property. This is why it is important to request a court hearing if you are given an unrealistic child support payment.

Will bankruptcy forgive any child support payments I owe?

In Arizona (and most other states) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy will not discharge child support that is owed. The court may agree to make the payments more reasonable, but they will consider child support debt a “high priority” that must be paid back as quickly as possible, in full. Failure to pay child support during the bankruptcy process could put your property and estate at risk.

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Arizona recognizes what is termed a "covenant marriage," which is a higher standard of marriage. Unlike no-fault, where the grounds for the dissolution of the marriage are irretrievable breakdown, covenant marriages may be ended on grounds of 1) adultery, 2) conviction of a felony which mandates prison or death; 3) abandonment for more than one year, 4) commission of domestic violence against the spouse, child or relative, 5) living separately and continuously and without reconciliation for over two years, 6) living separately for over 1 year after a legal separation is obtained; 7) habitual use of drugs and alcohol, or 8) both spouses agree to the dissolution.
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