Withholding Income for Child and Spousal Support

HR Resource
July 15, 2013 — 2,370 views  
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There are many cases of married couples getting divorced over disagreements, where one of them is handed custody of their children, if any, in case the other is not deemed fit to take care of them. Child support is the payment made by the erring spouse, in lieu of the expenses of taking care of the children, to the spouse under whose care the children are placed. Spousal support is similar in that the erring spouse must pay a certain amount to the other for livelihood, if the other is not able to financially support himself/herself.

Factors Influencing Child and Spousal Support

There are various factors influencing child and spousal support. The amount to be paid depends on the circumstances subject to court judgments based on specific state and county laws. For example, in the state of Massachusetts the amount to be paid as child or spousal support is determined by the judge overseeing the case. Usually, such payments are taken depending on the erring spouse's amount of periodic income and assets possessed, subject to certain limitations.

If the spouse is regularly employed, the payments can be deducted directly from their income at the employer level, limited to a certain percentage of disposable income. It is also subject to other conditions like whether or not the spouse has another family to support. If the spouse is self-employed or has other sources of income, the payments can be deducted during the taxing process, provided he/she files for tax returns.

Withholding Your Employee's Income

It is your employee's duty to inform you that his/her income should be withheld for paying child or spousal support once it is ruled so in the court. As an employer, you will also receive a notice from the court or the Department of Revenue ordering you to withhold the employee’s payment, upon which you must start deducting the specified amount from the following month. Failing to comply with the order, regardless of the employee's knowledge about withholding the income, will make you liable for the missed payments and will also subject you to a fine of either $500 or the equivalent of the missed payment, whichever is greater.

Once you begin the withholding process, you must make the deductions from all forms of compensation you give your employee – be it bonuses, severance pay, or commissions, regardless of the nature of his/her employment under you, be it permanent, part-time, temporary, or as an independent contractor. The required deduction may be any amount of the pay, generally limited to a maximum of 60% of the employee's disposable income, that is the income the employee receives after all government deductions for taxes and other reasons are done.

If the employee supports another family, the maximum limit is 50%. If the employee is overdue on the support payments, the limit may be raised by 5%. You may not deduct lesser than the stipulated percentage unless the order itself exceeds the limit.

Income withholding must be done until the time period specified by the court or the Department of Revenue. Once the period is terminated, you and the employee will receive a notice from the relevant authority that the order has been lifted.

HR Resource

Child support is the payment made by the erring spouse, in lieu of the expenses of taking care of the children, to the spouse under whose care they are placed. This article explains the legalities of withholding income for child/spousal support.