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Alameda County, CA, acgov.org

EMPLOYERS' CORNER

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"Cooperation between employers and child support agencies may be the best working model of an effective public-private partnership in America today." (Office of Child Support Enforcement Administration for Children & Families U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services)

Answers to commonly asked questions about wage withholding orders and health insurance assignments orders are listed below. If you have questions about a specific wage assignment you have received, please call 1-866-901-3212. A Call Center Representative will assist you. If need the assigned Caseworker will return your call within one business day. For more information on employers and the California Child Support Enforcement System, please visit the Employer Resource Center on the California Department of Child Support Services website and the Employer Outreach section on the Child Support Directors Association of California website (CSDA).

ALL CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS MUST BE SENT TO:
State Disbursement Unit
P.O. Box 989067
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9067

FAQs FOR EMPLOYERS AND LABOR ORGANIZATIONS

Q. Our business received a wage verification form for an employee. How is this information used?

A. Information provided on a wage verification helps the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services (ACDCSS) locate non-custodial parents, properly determine earnings to establish a child support amount, as well as verify employment, union membership, and availability of health insurance. Under federal and state laws, employers are required to provide the information promptly and as fully as possible. ACDCSS and its staff are restricted by law from using this information for anything other than enforcement of child support.

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Q.What is the difference between an Order/Notice to Withhold and a Wage Assignment?

A. The Order/Notice to Withhold is an Administrative Order and a Wage Assignment is a Court Order and require that wages be withheld to pay child support, medical support, and/or spousal support obligations. Both are based on valid child support court orders and should be treated the same. Within this section, the terms are equivalent and interchangeable.

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Q: I just received this Wage Assignment; what does this mean?

A: The law requires the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services to serve a Wage Assignment even if the non-custodial party is paying on his or her own. It is intended to ensure the consistency of child support payments and is required by federal and state laws, which state that child support payments made pursuant to a court order be withheld from the non-custodial parent's paycheck. It implies no wrongdoing by the parent. A copy of the Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold, including the Request for Hearing, should be given to your employee within 10 (ten) days of receipt and deductions should begin with the next pay date. Payments must be sent to the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services within 7 (seven) days of the date of withholding. Complete instructions are included with every Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold

If the parent is no longer in your employ, you must return the Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold to ACDCSS with the last date of employment, last known address, and new place of employment, if known.

Wage withholding orders for child support take priority over almost all other wage withholding orders. Child support obligations must be paid before non-tax federal debt, state and local tax levies, creditor garnishment, and voluntary assignments for loan repayment. In the case of a federal tax levy, the order of service determines priority. If the child support wage assignment was served first, it has priority and must be paid first. If, however, the IRS tax levy was served first, it must be paid first. In these situations, please advise ACDCSS immediately.

Failure to comply with a Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold is a crime and the employer can be held liable for the child support that should have been withheld in addition to civil penalties for contempt. An employer who fires, disciplines, or refuses to hire an employee based on income withholding is in violation of state law and faces civil penalties.

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Q.How do I handle multiple Wage Assignments for the same employee?

A: Multiple child support wage assignments can be confusing, but some common scenarios are exemplified below. The guiding principal is that you must pay us in full when possible. But when it's not possible to pay us in full due to limits on available earnings, pay us on a prorated basis always giving priority to current support due ahead of arrears repay.

Example 1- Pay All Assignments in Full (Current Support and Arrears Repay)- For example, your employee has total net disposable income of $2000.00 per month. You cannot deduct more than 50% or $1000.00. You have received two Wage Assignments. Assignment A is for $400/mo current support and $25/mo repay on arrears for a total of $425/mo. Assignment B is for $500/mo current support and $50/mo repay on arrears for a total of $550.00. The accumulative total for both assignments is $975.00. This amount does not exceed the 50% of net cap ($1,000.00) so you must deduct & send to us the full amount due for current support and arrears repay on both assignments.

Example 2- Prorate the Current Support and Ignore Arrears Repay- For example, your employee has a total net disposable income of $800.00/month. You cannot deduct more than 50% or $400.00/mo. You receive two wage assignments. Assignment A is for $300/mo current support and $50/mo on arrears repay for a total of $350/mo. Assignment B is for $200/mo current support and $25/mo on arrears repay or $225/mo total. The cumulative total for both assignments is $575/mo. This amount exceeds the 50% of net cap ($400.00). In this example, you should deduct the current support due on a prorated basis and ignore the arrears repay amount. First add up the total amount due each month for current support. In this example, the total current support due is $500/mo ($300/mo on Assignment A and $200/mo on Assignment B). This exceeds 50% of net so you deduct on a prorated basis as follows: Assignment A is to be paid at a ratio of $300/$500, which is three fifths or 60%. Assignment B is to be paid at a ratio of $200/$500, which is two fifths or 40%. Go back to the $400 00 cap and send us 60% of $400 or $240 on Assignment A and send us 40% of $400 or $160.00 on Assignment B. Please note that if both Assignments are from Alameda County, you can send us 50% of net with our case numbers etc and we will apply the payments properly. But if Assignment 1 is from one county and Assignment 2 is from another, you have to prorate and pay each county per their wage withholding order as exemplified.

Example 3- Pay Current Support in Full and Prorate Arrears Repay- For example, if your employee has a total net disposable income of $1200/month, you cannot deduct more than 50% or $600.00. You receive two wage assignments. Assignment A is for $300/mo current support and $100/mo on arrears repay or $400/mo total. Assignment B is for $200/mo current support and $50/mo repay or a total of $250/mo. The cumulative total for both assignments is $650.00/mo. In this example the 50% cap of $600 is high enough so that you can and must deduct current support in full (i.e. $300 on assignment A and $200 on Assignment B for a total of $500.00 current support). After earmarking $500 for current support, you only have $100 remaining to stay within the 50% or $600 cap, so you should deduct the repay amounts on a prorated basis. First add up the total amount due for repay, which in this example is $150 ($100 on Assignment A and $50 on Assignment B). Assignment A arrears repay is to be paid at a ratio of $100/$150 or 2/3 or 66%. Assignment B arrears repay is to be paid at a ratio of $50/$150 or 1/3 or 33%. Now go back to the $100 that is available for arrears repay and send us 66% of $100 for repay or $66.67 on Assignment A; and send us 33% of $100 or $33.33 on Assignment B. The net result is you will stay within the $600 withholding cap and will pay us current support in full and will pay us prorated arrears repay as follows: $366.67 on Assignment A ($300 current support + $66.67 repay) and $233.33 on Assignment B ($200 current support and $33.33 repay). You will not be paying us the full $650.00 obligation but that is okay because you cannot exceed the 50% or $600 cap in this example. Please note that if both Assignments are from Alameda County, you can send us 50% of net with our case numbers etc and we will apply the payments properly. But if Assignment 1 is from one county and Assignment 2 is from another, you have to prorate and pay each county per their wage withholding order as exemplified.

While the above examples are expressed in monthly terms, the ratio formulas can be applied as well to weekly, bi-weekly, and semi monthly scenarios.

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Q: What is legal date of collection and why is it so important?

A: The legal date of collection for a child support or spousal support payment made by deduction of wages is the month, day and year when the State Disbursement Unit receives the payment. All payments, regardless of method, are credited as of the DATE OF RECEIPT at the State Disbursement Unit.

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Q: What information does our company have to include with the payment?

A: Please provide the ACDCSS Case Number, the Employee's Name and Social Security number, the Pay Date and the Amount of Payment. If known, also include the employee's participant ID number.

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Q. Where does our business send the payments?

A. Effective September 1, 2006 all child support payments must be sent to:

State Disbursement Unit
P.O. Box 989067
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9067

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Q: Can I send in one check for multiple employees?

A: Yes. Please note how much money is for each case, each employee's Name and Social Security number, each ACDCSS case number, and the pay date. If known, also include the employee's participant ID number.

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Q. What are considered earnings or income?

A. For purposes of a Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold, earnings and income include:

  1. Wages, salary, bonuses, vacation pay, retirement pay, and commissions paid by an employer;
  2. Payments for services of independent contractors;
  3. Dividends, interest, rents, royalties, and residuals;
  4. Patent rights, and mineral or other natural resource rights;
  5. Any payments due as a result of written or oral contracts for services or sales, regardless of title;
  6. Payments due for workers' compensation temporary benefits, or payments from a disability or health insurance policy or program;
  7. Interest;
  8. Any other payments or credits due regardless of source. You may be required to report and withhold from lump sum payments such as bonuses, commissions, or severance pay.

Disposable Earnings are those earnings remaining after mandatory taxes and deductions, including mandatory retirement or union dues. Pre-tax deductions, such as 401(K) plan, must be added to the employee's taxable wages before determining the allowable disposable earnings.

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Q: What do we do if the employee does not have sufficient disposable earnings to satisfy the withholding order?

A: If the employee's disposable income is less than the withholding order, withhold up to but never more than 50% of the disposable earnings, unless the court order specifies a different percentage. Federal law prohibits withholding more than 65% of disposable earnings of an employee in any case. If the employee's disposable income is not sufficient to meet the order, please inform ACDCSS as soon as possible.

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Q. What does our company do if the employee quits or is laid off or is fired?
A. If the employee leaves your employ for any reason, you must notify ACDCSS promptly (no later than the next pay date). Please complete the reverse side of the Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold with the date of separation as well as the employee's last known home address and new employer, if known, and mail it to ACDCSS.

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Q. What if the employee returns to work?

A. If the employee returns to work, you must reinstate the Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold immediately. Please notify ACDCSS with the date of return.

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Q. Our business received an income withholding order from a child support agency in another state. Must I send the payments directly to that agency?

A. Yes. Under the federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), employers are required to honor child support income withholding orders from other states. Please follow the directions provided in the documents received from the other agency.

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Q. Our company received more than one withholding order for the same family. What should I do?

A. You should immediately contact each agency/jurisdiction involved. Continue to honor the first order you received until you receive different instructions from the child support agencies involved.

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Q. The employee is receiving Workers Compensation; what do we do?

A. You should notify ACDCSS with the date of injury, the insurance claim number, the name and address of the workers' compensation insurer, and the name and phone number of the insurance claim representative. If the WCAB number is known, please include that along with any other relevant information. As an employer, you should notify ACDCSS within five business days of any change in employment status.

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Q. Our employee told me that I should not deduct the child support because s/he has already taken care of this with the child support agency or that the order was sent in error or that the child has emancipated. What should I do?

A. As an employer, you are responsible for honoring the Wage Assignment or Order/Notice to Withhold in accordance with federal and state law until notified by the court or by the issuing agency. DO NOT end wage withholding until notified to do so by ACDCSS. The employee should contact the agency involved directly to resolve the issue.

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Q. Why does ACDCSS keep sending us letters when we have already provided the information?


Unfortunately, this happens and we apologize for the additional work. The automated child support enforcement system researches cases for earnings, addresses, and assets and this may result in multiple contacts to an employer.

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Q. What is the difference between a Health Insurance Coverage Assignment (HICA) and a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN)?

A. The National Medical Support Notice replaces the Health Insurance Coverage Assignment. An NMSN has the same force and effect as a HICA.

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Q: I just received this National Meical Support Notice (NMSN); what does this mean?

A: An NMSN is a court order to enroll the child(ren) in an employer-provided health insurance plan if available at no or a reasonable cost. Your responsibility as an employer is to begin or maintain coverage for the employee's dependents whose names are listed on the order, if health insurance is available. Please follow the instructions included with each National Medical Support Notice. A copy of the NMSN must also be given to the employee. A response must be received by ACDCSS within ninety days of service. If the dependents are already covered through your company's plan, return the NMSN with the required information. If coverage is available, please enroll the children and return to our office a completed NMSN form and any insurance cards and/or booklets. If coverage will be available at a later date, please complete the appropriate section of the NMSN and return it to us indicating the date insurance will be available. When the insurance becomes available, please enroll the child(ren) and send the required information, including any insurance cards and/or booklets, to ACDCSS. If the court ordered child support plus the cost of the health insurance coverage exceeds fifty percent of the non-custodial parent's net income, please return the NMSN noting the excessive cost. Take no action regarding adding the child(ren) to the medical insurance unless instructed further by our agency.

Failure to comply with an NMSN is a crime and the employer can be held liable for medical costs incurred during the time the insurance should have been in place in addition to civil penalties for contempt.

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Q. Do we also have to enroll the child(ren) in dental and vision coverage?

A. Yes, if dental and/or vision coverage is offered by the employer the child(ren) should be enrolled.

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Q. Our company does not offer health insurance. Do we still need to respond?

A. Yes, please return the form stating that insurance is not available. Please also let us know if insurance will be available in the future.

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Q. The employee is not eligible for health insurance at this time. What should I do?

A. Return the NMSN to ACDCSS within 20 business days with an explanation as to why the insurance is not available (e.g., employee is part-time or no longer employed or on probation). If the employee is on probation and will be eligible for health insurance in the future, please indicate the start date on the returned form. When coverage is available, enroll the child(ren) and send the completed NMSN form along with any insurance cards and/or booklets to ACDCSS.

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Q. The NMSN was not received during the open enrollment period. Can we wait until the next open enrollment period?
A. No. The employee must be permitted to enroll any child who is eligible for health coverage, without regard to any enrollment period restrictions.

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Q. What should our business do if there's a lapse in coverage?

A. It is your responsibility to notify ACDCSS anytime there is a lapse in coverage. You must also notify us when the coverage resumes.

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Q. Our business does offer health insurance to our employees but there is an employee-paid premium. Do we make the deductions for current child support and arrears before we deduct the insurance premiums?

A. Health insurance is a form of current support. Deduct current child support first, then health insurance premiums, followed by current spousal support (if any), child support arrears, and lastly, spousal arrears. Please note, however, that you can only deduct up to 50% of an employee's net disposable earnings.

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