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Legal Authority for Income Withholding Orders

The most effective and most often used enforcement tool for CSS is the Income Withholding Order. Oklahoma law provides that all CSS child support orders have provisions for immediate income assignments regardless of whether the obligor is in arrears. 12 O.S. § 1171.3(G), 43 O.S. § 115 and 56 O.S. § 237.  CSS uses the Federal Income Withholding for Support (IWO) form, formerly known as Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support, as prescribed by the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. 12 O.S. § 1171.3(B) and 56 O.S. § 240.2(D).

All Income Withholding Orders, whether issued by CSS, private Attorney’s or pro se litigants must use the federal IWO form.  12 O.S. §1171.3  Employers must comply with an IWO received on the approved form. Employers also must reject an IWO that is not regular on its face, for example, if the form has been altered or is incomplete.   The IWO must be rejected if it requires payment to any person, entity or address other than the State or Tribal state disbursal unit (SDU).  If an employer receives an IWO from other than a State or Tribal IV-D program, the IWO must be accompanied by the underlying child support order.  Employers must also honor a child support IWO before any other garnishment, except an IRS tax levy entered before the child support order.

The Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) and Oklahoma law sets limits on the amount that can be withheld from earnings for child support IWOs. The maximum amount of child support withholding percentages are set by 15 U.S.C. §1673 (b)(2). Oklahoma mimics the CCPA limit percentages in 12 O.S. §1171.2. The limits to withholding are:

  1. 50% of the disposable income if the obligor is supporting another family;
  2. 55% of the disposable income if the obligor is supporting another family, with arrears greater than 12 weeks;
  3. 60% of the disposable income if the obligor is not supporting another family; or
  4. 65% of the disposable income if the obligor is not supporting another family, with arrears greater than 12 weeks.

An IWO is also the most frequently used enforcement remedy that may be used across state lines.  UIFSA section 502 (43 O.S. 601-502) requires all employers to honor IWOs regular on their face, even though they come from out of state.  The employer complies with the law of the state of the obligor’s principal place of employment to determine allowable processing fees, the maximum amount that may be withheld from earnings and the time to withhold and remit payments.

While the IWO is primarily used to intercept child support from wages and earnings, the definition of income within the context of an IWO is much broader.  Income is defined at 12 O.S. 1170 and 56 O.S. 237.7 to include any form of payment to an individual regardless of source, including, but not limited to, wages, salary, commission, compensation as an independent contractor, workers’ compensation, disability, annuity and retirement benefits, and any other payments made by any person, private entity, federal or state government, any unit of local government, school district, or any entity created by law.  CSS can and does use the IWO to collect from periodic workers compensation benefits, oil and gas revenue payments, periodic trust payments and other payment sources.

Occasionally CSS also uses the Lump Sum IWO much like other judgement creditors would use a one-time garnishment.  For instance, CSS can collect an obligor’s funds held at the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Fund by issuing a Lump Sum IWO.

The payor served with an IWO, normally an employer, is liable for any amount up to the accumulated amount that should have been withheld and paid.  The payor also may be fined up to Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) for each failure to make the required deductions if the payor fails to withhold or pay the support or report according to the terms of the IWO.  An IWO requires a payor to timely report that an obligor has never worked for or is no longer working for the payor.

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