As you’re probably aware, the non-payment of child support in the United States is an all too common problem. To address the high rate of non-compliance, child support agencies have been given special tools to collect child support not granted by law to other kinds of creditors.

The most widely used and effective mechanism for child support collection is the income withholding order or wage garnishment. Also sometimes called a wage assignment, the income withholding order works in much the same way as a conventional garnishment. A notice is sent to the obligor’s employer directing the employer to withhold an amount for child support directly from the obligor’s pay. The employer then forwards the money to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU).

An income withholding order has a number of advantages over a regular garnishment, however. First, while a garnishment is effective for 90 days, an income withholding order can run for the entire length of the child support obligation without ever having to be renewed. An income withholding order may be used not only on salary and wages, but also on sources of income such as retirement benefits, workers’ compensation payments, dividends, capital gains distributions, and unemployment compensation.

In many cases, an income withholding order will be put into effect immediately upon the entry of a child support order. In this way, the support can begin flowing to the children right away without the need for you to ever write a monthly support check. Employers are quite accustomed to dealing with these type of garnishments, and they send payments regularly to the SDU each month.

If you are paying child support via an income withholding order and subsequently change jobs, you must immediately notify the San Mateo County Department of Child Support Services. Let them know who your new employer is so that a new income withholding order can be activated and no future child support payments will be missed. By doing this, you can avoid becoming the target of one of the many other enforcement tools the San Mateo County Department of Child Support Services has at its disposal. You should also be sure to have a new income withholding order sent to your employer if your child support amount is ever modified.

Keep in mind that the activation of an income withholding order does not prevent the possibility that a tax refund, lottery intercept or other enforcement activity could occur if payments are not regularly paid as agreed upon or if you owe child support arrears.