Child Support Withholding and Fees
State and federal laws require employers to comply with various income-withholding orders for child support. The orders can be issued in a variety of formats by a number of entities. These include Texas judicial writs of withholding and Texas administrative writs of withholding issued by the Texas Office of the Attorney General to deduct child support payments from the paycheck of an officer or employee. In addition, spousal maintenance may be combined with a child support order.
State agencies must treat an income-withholding order issued by another state as if the order had been issued by a Texas tribunal. However, it is not necessary for an order to be registered with a Texas tribunal to be enforced. Laws regarding child support withholding vary in different states, so it is important that each agency involve its internal legal counsel in decisions concerning out-of-state orders.
Regardless of the issuing state, agencies must comply with Texas law regarding the maximum amount permitted to be withheld from the employee’s income, the time frame for implementing the withholding order, and any fees charged by the agency for processing an order.
Payment to an individual or county office
If the withholding order directs the agency to send the payment to an individual or a county office, the agency must establish a new mail code in the Texas Identification Number System (TINS) with information about the individual recipient of the child support payment.
When sending the child support payment, the agency will include information to identify the payment, such as the court case or cause number and the Texas Identification Number (TIN) of the employee making the payment. The agency will send the payment and report detail according to the mailing instructions included in the order. Before submitting the report, agencies must verify the individual withholding amount is correct and equals the amount on the deduction warrant received from the Comptroller’s office.
Payment to the Texas State Disbursement Unit (SDU)
If the order directs the agency to send the payment to the Texas State Disbursement Unit (SDU), the agency must use the established TIN and mail code, 33023023022033. Using this TIN directs the payment to the single direct deposit (SDD) process, which allows all the agency’s child support payments to be sent to the SDU as one direct deposit payment with the addenda detail.
The addenda detail includes identifying information about the employee from whose wages the child support deduction was taken, the appropriate case identifier or cause number that identifies the order and the amount of the payment, eliminating the need for manual or hard copy reports.
Court costs and any fees associated with an order are not included in the SDD process and should have a separate TIN established.
For additional information about payment options contact the OAG’s Child Support Division or see the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) child support wage withholding FAQ.
If an employee (obligor) has been delinquent in paying child support, additional payments for arrearages (past due, unpaid child support owed by the non-custodial parent; if the parent has arrearages, she or he is said to be “in arrears”) may be included in the child support order. This means that the employee is obligated to pay the current child support and must also pay a specified amount each month towards unpaid prior child support or arrearages.
Agencies must deduct arrearages according to guidelines established by the OAG regarding the order for the deduction and the disposable earnings available. Disposable earnings are the part of the earnings of an individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings (see definition below) of any amount required by law to be withheld, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical, hospitalization and disability insurance coverage for the employee and the employee’s children.
Earnings are defined as a payment to or due an individual, regardless of source and how denominated. The term includes a periodic or lump-sum payment for: wages, salary, compensation received as an independent contractor, overtime pay, severance pay, commission, bonus and interest income; payments made under a pension, an annuity, workers’ compensation, and a disability or retirement program; and unemployment benefits.
Agencies should work with their internal legal counsel to resolve any questions related to specific orders containing arrearages.
Courts are authorized to charge a fee to cover any court-ordered attorney fees and costs resulting from an action to enforce child support withholding orders. Agencies must also deduct any court-ordered fees according to the instructions in the order. Agencies should involve their internal legal counsel to resolve any questions related to court-ordered costs.
An employer (specifically including a governmental entity, defined as “the state, a political subdivision of the state, or an agency of the state”) may deduct an administrative fee of not more than $10 each month from the employee’s disposable earnings in addition to the amount withheld as child support.
When an employee subject to a withholding order terminates, the employing agency is required to notify the entity that ordered child support payments. Orders may include instructions for such notification, including the date of termination and the name of the subsequent employer if known. This information must be reported as soon as possible after termination.
For additional information about the income withholding process, see the OAG’s contact page.
Texas Family Code, Sections 101.012, 101.014, 158.011(a)-(b), 158.201-158.203, 158.206(b), 158.210, 158.405, 158.501(a), 158.501(b), 158.504(b), 159.101(6), (19), (22), 159.501, 159.502(b), (c); Texas Family Code, Sections 101.010, 101.011-101.012, 101.014, 101.022, 158.204; 42 United States Code, Sections 666(a)(1)(A), (b)(6)(A)(i); SB 865, Section 19, 81st Legislature, Regular Session modifies Texas Family Code, Section 158.203.