In the state of West Virginia, if a non-custodial parent fails to consistently make child support payments, the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) is entitled to identify the delinquent parent’s employer and require child support deductions from the parent’s paycheck. In some cases, judges are also capable of issuing orders for support payment collection to initiate the process. Of course, income withholding from an employer can also be established in court at the time of divorce and selected as a valid child support payment method with the non-custodial parent’s consent.
Although the state can collect owed child support through bank levy or the withholding of welfare benefits, wage withholding is the most common approach for collecting child support from employed non-custodial parents. Uniquely, West Virginia uses the income share method (and not the percentage of income method) to determine owed child support. Using this method, a non-custodial parent must pay a percentage of estimated childcare costs according to a proportional share of the parent’s combined income.
In this article, we’ll explore employer responsibilities in the event that child support payment withholding is required for one or more of your employees, and how you can stay compliant with West Virginia and federal regulations.
When the West Virginia BCSE initiates the enforcement process, an employer is given a federal Income Withholding Order, after which the employer is responsible for taking the following steps:
- Assess the authenticity of the document and ensure all necessary information is included. Usually, documents will be sent by the West Virginia BCSE or a court; if not, a copy of the court order that applies to the employee should be attached with the Notice to Withhold.
- Provide your employee a copy of the order/notice and document the date you received the order/notice for recordkeeping.
The next key step is to closely follow any withholding terms articulated within the order. As an employer, you must abide by state-provided terms regarding all of the following:
- The amount of child support to be withheld; duration of withholding; any medical support terms that apply.
- Where and how to remit payments (typically to BCSE).
- Any applicable fees or costs owed to BCSE, an issuing court, or another qualifying authority.
Income Withholding Orders should contain comprehensive information regarding when withholding should begin, the exact amount to be deducted each pay period, and which address/authority will accept payment.
Generally speaking, following receipt of a wage garnishment order for child support, an employer in West Virginia must begin withholding within the first pay period or within 14 days following receipt of the garnishment order. Employers must remit withheld wages on the employee’s payday (usually electronically).
Regarding garnishment priorities, remember that a child support payment should be paid before any other garnishment (with the exception of a federal tax levy that occurred prior to the child support order). If you receive multiple child support orders for a single employee, contact a qualified HR consultant or the issuing authority to clarify protocols for withholding.
If the order/notice does not contain information regarding the maximum amount to be withheld or terms for charging an employer’s administrative fee, contact BCSE for additional information, particularly because the withholding amount must stay within Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) limits. Our related article discusses other forms of income withholding in West Virginia and the circumstances in which income withholding for child support can exceed the normal 25% net wage threshold.
As an employer, you are not permitted to contest an income withholding order, but you should contact the issuing authority (agency or otherwise) if another withholding order is already established for the employee and their child.
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