If you have received an “Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support,” you must not disregard the document. This notice should be handled immediately as a Texas employer who knowingly fails to withhold court-ordered child support may be subject to a $200 fine for each pay period during which it failed to withhold income and remit child support to the appropriate agency. Additionally, under Section 158.206 of the Texas Family Code, the employer who complies with the Order/Notice is not liable to the employee.
However, as an employer it is imperative that you check your payroll records because Texas law mandates that you may not withhold more than 50% of your employee’s “disposable earnings.” Disposable earnings are the part that remains after mandatory deductions for medicare, federal income taxes, social security, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical/hospitalization/disability insurance coverage for the employee and the employee’s children. There is a possibility that the Order/Notice could incorrectly exceed that amount and in that case seek guidance from your trusted family law attorney or another professional in human resources.
Additionally, issues holding up a withholding order does not absolve the obligee from their responsibility to pay in the meantime. It is ultimately the responsibility to pay as directed by the court order regardless of whether it is being withheld or not, and failure to do so will result in significant amounts of back payments owed that accrue interest, as well as the possible risk of jail time for contempt of court. However, to make things even more complicated, in nearly every situation, you won’t receive any credit for direct payments to the obligor, which are considered “informal payments”. It is important to make sure to read the specific language of the court’s order so that you know exactly who and when you should pay.
Finally be careful to seek legal guidance if you have received multiple orders related to an employee’s wages, because withholding orders for child support have priority over any other garnishments, attachments, writs of execution or other judgments affecting the employee’s disposable earnings, and there are a significant amount of remedies available to the State of Texas to collect child support that are not available to any other entities to which you owe money. It is very easy to get in over your head very quickly when dealing with child support, and it is vital to stay mindful.