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Child Support Wage Assignment in Tennessee

Perhaps you have heard the term “wage assignment” but don’t know exactly what it means. It means that under the law, your employer can be directed to withhold a portion of your wages and send that money to pay your child support and alimony. This can be done even if you are not behind in paying your child support and alimony. (When a portion of your wages is withheld to send to pay a creditor who has obtained a judgment against you for money you owe for something other than child support or alimony, we typically call that a “garnishment” or “wage garnishment”. The rest of this page refers to wage assignment only with respect to child support.)

Understanding wage assignment

Wage assignment is a legal order from a court or child support office. The order is sent to an employer and requires that the employer withhold a specified amount of money from a paycheck and then send those funds to the court or to the child support office or to the person to whom you owe child support.

When can a wage assignment be done?

When it concerns child support, wage assignment is permitted without a court judgment being obtained first. Instead, the wage assignment can be done at the time the court order is signed setting the child support obligation. Or the wage assignment can be done later. It is the obligation to pay the child support which serves as the basis for the wage assignment.

Tennessee’s wage assignment laws

Wage assignment laws in Tennessee limit the amount of money that your employer can withhold from your paycheck and send in for payment of child support. The law is designed to provide you with enough leftover income to pay your living expenses. There is a fair amount of calculating that has to be done by the employer to determine what is the maximum amount they can withhold from your income. The employer may be permitted to withhold at least 50% of your “disposable earnings” for that week (that is, the wages remaining after the employer has made mandatory deductions), and can withhold as much as 65% of your “disposable earnings” under certain circumstances. (For judgments that are not child support or alimony, the maximum amount withheld from your paycheck will be less, with the specific amounts being set forth in statutes.)

Wage assignment for child support

If you owe child support, the person who is receiving the child support can request that the court garnish your pay. Tennessee law does not protect your wages from garnishment for child support; federal laws apply with regard to child support obligations. Under federal law, up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay child support if you are supporting a child or spouse who is not the subject of the order. If you are not supporting a child or spouse, up to 65% of your disposable earnings may be garnished (depending on the circumstances).

Understand your rights

Child support is a serious matter. And the courts do not look favorably upon parents who are delinquent in their child support payments. But life is complicated and there may be times when making a full payment is particularly challenging. It is important to understand your rights as both the provider of child support and the parent receiving the support. Tennessee laws can be complicated. I am Franklin divorce attorney Judy A. Oxford and I have been helping Tennessee families navigate through child support and other family matters for more than 23 years. With personal dedication, extensive experience, and in-depth knowledge of the laws, I navigate the complexities of the law to try to achieve the best possible solutions to your family law matters. To arrange a confidential consultation, contact my office at 615-791-8511 or contact me online.