By Family Law Attorney Christie Ayotte
Sometimes non-custodial parents decide it is more convenient and leads to less conflict to have their child support payments come directly out of their paychecks, rather than to be responsible each month for writing a check, buying a stamp, tracking down the Ex’s new mailing address, and then arguing with the Ex if the payment doesn’t arrive on time. The most common way that separating couples accomplish this auto-deduction is via an Income Deduction Order (“IDO”).
An Income Deduction Order is separate from the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. The Income Deduction Order and associated Income Withholding Order (“IWO”) tells an employer how much to deduct from the employee’s paycheck, pro-rated among the number of checks the employee receives each month. For example, if the employee owes child support of $1000 per month, and the employee is only paid once per month, then the full amount would come out of that paycheck. If the employee is paid twice per month, however (semi-monthly), then $500 is deducted each month. If the employee is paid every other week (that is, 28 times per year), then the employer uses a more complex formula: [Monthly amount] x 12/26.
Although there can be variation in any process, here is generally what happens after parties agree to an Income Deduction Order in their divorce settlement agreement/custody settlement agreement, or after an IDO is ordered by a judge:
- The judge signs an Income Deduction Order.
- The custodial parent (the one who receives child support) registers with Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) by completing a Non-IV Case Registration Form and sending it to the Family Support Registry. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-33.1. This form tells DHS how much money to expect in total each month, who is paying it, who is receiving it, and for which children the money is allocated.
- The custodial parent (or their family law attorney) signs an Income Withholding Order and sends this, plus the Income Deduction Order, and the Notice to Employer to the non-custodial parent’s employer. Note that if an employer refuses to deduct the money from the employer’s check, the employer becomes obligated to pay the child support amount that should have been deducted, plus penalties!
- The custodial parent (or their lawyer) sends a form Statement of Rights to the non-custodial parent, plus a copy of the Income Deduction Order.
- Within 14 days of the next paycheck, the employer deducts the appropriate child support amount plus a service charge, and then sends the child support to the Family Support Registry.
- The Family Support Registry sends a debit card to the custodial parent (or simply direct deposits the money).
Although auto-deduction of child support payments take a little bit more work to set up, an IDO can be beneficial to both parties by providing a complete and accurate record of payments made by an impartial source. Income Deduction Orders also reduce the number of times parties have to talk to each other about a sensitive subject. IDOs give custodial parents the peace of mind of knowing that the child(ren)’s money will be arriving at the same time each month, and reduce administrative hassle for non-custodial parents.
Christie Ayotte is a family law attorney and Guardian Ad Litem based in Decatur, GA. She is the owner of her own law firm, Ayotte & Associates, which specializes in providing aggressive, affordable legal services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.