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Child Support Withholding Requirements by State

Author: Alice Gilman

Both federal and state laws govern child support enforcement. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is the federal law that imposes the basic standards all states must meet or exceed in order to receive federal funds to support their respective child support programs. Among other things, the PRWORA requires all initial child support orders to be satisfied through employer wage withholding, unless another payment arrangement (e.g., a wage assignment) is agreed to by both parents or by one parent and a court.

In addition, Title III of the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) sets the maximum amount that employers may withhold from employees' wages for child support and defines the disposable earnings that are subject to child support withholding.

States are free to set stricter standards than the PRWORA and the CCPA. An employer must generally follow the rules of the state in which the child support withholding order was issued. However, if there are multiple orders in effect for an employee that were issued in more than one state, the law of the state in which the employee works controls.

The following chart summarizes each state's laws regarding:

  • When an employer must begin withholding after receiving a child support order from a court or a state agency;
  • The maximum amount that may be withheld for child support, including the maximum administrative fee that an employer may charge, if any;
  • When an employer must remit the amount withheld to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) stated in the order;
  • The priority order in which an employer must satisfy multiple orders simultaneously in effect for an employee, if the employee's disposable earnings are insufficient to fully cover all the orders; and
  • How quickly an employer must send notice to the issuing court or agency when an employee separates from employment.

Additional information is available in the Employment Law Manual regarding:

  • Reporting and withholding from lump-sum payments;
  • The federal standard Income Withholding for Support (IWO) Form, Instructions and Sample;
  • Qualified medical support orders and the National Medical Support Notice;
  • Interstate child support orders;
  • US military active duty employee child support orders;
  • Private child support collection agency orders;
  • Independent contractor child support orders;
  • Foreign country reciprocity agreements;
  • State Disbursement Unit contacts; and
  • Penalties for failing to comply with child support withholding orders.