Child support is often a hot topic for debate in the news and among divorced or unmarried parents. Pennsylvania’s child support system is broad-reaching and has a lot of power to enforce child support orders. The best option for a parent who is swamped with child support payments or unable to pay is to talk to a child support modification attorney.
If you are behind on child support payments, the government may start garnishing your wages to put money towards your child support payments. But what limits does this wage garnishment have? If you work multiple jobs, can the government garnish wages from multiple jobs? The Philadelphia child support attorneys at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices explain the rules on wage garnishment for Pennsylvania divorce cases.
How Does Pennsylvania Wage Garnishment Work?
Many different types of payments can be taken straight out of your wages if you fail to make payments on your own. Bankruptcy debt, tax issues, and child support are some of the most popular payments to use wage garnishment. Wage garnishment is a way to enforce court ordered payments if the payor refuses to pay or says they can’t afford it. While it is technically not a punishment, wage garnishment still acts like a punishment. Rather than allowing you to make your own decision with your wages and money, wage garnishment immediately takes the money out of your paycheck before it gets to you.
Banks and payroll managers are both required by law to obey wage garnishment orders. This means that your employer may be required to take child support payments out of your wages, even if you ask them not to. If your paycheck makes its way into your bank account without the withholding, then the bank will withhold the garnished wages instead.
Child support is the second priority for wage garnishment in the United States. The IRS, the federal agency that handles taxes, gets first priority for wage garnishment due to back taxes or other issues. State child support orders get second priority and are payed before any other state orders or bankruptcy orders with wage garnishment.
Garnishment only comes out of your take-home pay. When you receive a paycheck, certain portions are withheld to pay for federal taxes, state and local taxes, and Social Security (FICA) taxes. After these withholdings, you take home the rest of the paycheck. Whether you call this “net pay” or “disposable earnings,” this portion is where garnished wages come from.
Limits on PA Wage Garnishment for Child Support
There are hard limitations on what percentage of your income can be garnished to pay for child support. In Pennsylvania, courts can order garnishment for up to 65% of your take-home pay. If you have your own family to support, outside of the support order, the law limits wage garnishment to 50% of your take-home pay. However, an additional 5% may be garnished (totaling 55%) if you are more than 12 weeks behind in payments. If you do not have another family to support, the government can instead take 60% of your take-home pay, plus another 5% if you are more than 12 weeks behind.
There is no limitation on which jobs can garnish wages. This means that no matter how many jobs you have, you may face garnishment from any and all employers. Additionally, each employer will generally receive the same order. This usually means that you lose the same amount of money, in total, regardless of whether the money is withheld from your total take-home pay or from each independent job’s take-home pay. It does, however, mean that you cannot avoid garnishment by having multiple jobs.
Even though the law authorizes high percentages of your wages for garnishment, there is still a lower cap on how much wage can be garnished at once. Federal law limits garnishment to a percentage of your pay, or an amount over 30-times the federal hourly minimum wage. In 2017, the federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, meaning 30-times that is $217.50. The limit on what wages can be garnished is whichever is lesser:
- 25% of your take-home pay, or
- Your take-home pay minus $217.50.
Note that this rule applies to each job independently. That means that you may have a lower garnishing limit on one job than the other. Having multiple jobs cannot help you avoid wage garnishment, but it may lower the total amount garnished each pay period.
For example: If you make $500 take-home pay at one job, 25% of this is $125. Your take-home pay minus $217.50 is $282.50. This means that the government can garnish up to $125 from that paycheck.
Instead, if you have two jobs and make $250 take-home pay at each, 25% of each paycheck is $62.50. But $250 minus $217.50 is only $32.50. This means that the maximum the government can garnish is $32.50 from each paycheck. In total, the government would only get $65 total from two jobs paying $250, rather than the $125 they would get from one $500 paycheck.
Talk to an attorney about how having multiple jobs may affect your total wage garnishment, and what you are required to pay.
Philadelphia Child Support Lawyer
The Philadelphia family lawyers at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices may be able to help you fight child support orders or get the amounts changed. If you are unable to afford child support payments, talk to an attorney today about modifying a child support payment. Never resort to stopping payments on your own without a court order, or you might face enforcement like wage garnishment. Call 215-625-0851.