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What Courts and Attorneys Must Know About Income Withholding

Published: August 18, 2011
Information About:
Other Public Partners, Courts
Employer Responsibilities, Income/Wage Withholding


Each state is required to run a child support enforcement program that complies with federal laws, regulations and requirements. The failure of a state to pass the required state laws (mirroring federal statutes where necessary) can result in the loss of funding for not only its child support program but also for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Child support payments are most effectively collected through income withholding, a process where the noncustodial parent's (NCP) employer is directed to withhold the ordered child support from the NCP's income and forward it to the appropriate agency/party. In 2010 nearly 70% of child support collections came from income withholding.

Important to Know:

The following is information that judges, hearing officers, private practitioners, clerks of court, etc. should be aware of when entering orders for income withholding:

  1. Cases enforced by the state child support enforcement agency are commonly referred to as IV-D cases. All other cases, even those in which payments flow through the agency, are commonly called "non IV-D."
  2. All child support orders entered after 1994 are required to have a provision for immediate income withholding; exceptions to this requirement are included in the order.
  3. Income withholding orders (IWO) are required to be on a standard form approved by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This requirement applies both to IV-D and non-IV-D cases. To download the IWO form, go to the OCSE Employer Services website below and click on "Library". Effective May 31, 2012, IWOs will be returned if not on the standard form.
  4. Child support payments made through income withholding are required to be sent to a State Disbursement Unit (SDU). This requirement applies to all IV-D and non-IV-D cases entered after January 1, 1994. Any IWO that does not direct an employer to send payments to the SDU is not "regular on its face" and will be returned to the sender.
  5. The IWO approved by HHS includes a "remittance identifier". This is the number needed by the SDU in order to process the payment in a timely manner. For a non IV-D case, courts should work with their local child support agency and/or SDU to obtain the correct remittance identifier for inclusion on the form. The remittance identifier may be different from the case ID. You may obtain a listing of SDU addresses and the IWO requirements on the OCSE website.