Interstate Child Support:

Wage Withholding Not Fulfilling Expectations

HRD-92-65BR: Published: Feb 25, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the legislative requirement for interstate wage withholding of child support payments, focusing on: (1) procedures used in interstate wage withholding; (2) the uniformity of such procedures among states; (3) the time taken to serve a wage withholding order on an employer; and (4) factors contributing to processing time.

GAO found that the procedures used to effect wage withholding in response to requests from other states include: (1) an expedited procedure required by the Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984, under which the state handles the case as a non-interstate case; (2) Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) registration, under which the responding office legally certifies the initiating court's child support order with the responding court; (3) URESA petitioning, under which the responding state's child support office petitions its local court to establish and enforce a new child support order; (4) the implementation of an interstate support order outside of URESA for income withholding only; (5) states directly sending their wage withholding orders to out-of-state employers; and (6) serving a garnishment order on the employer's registered agent in the initiating state. GAO also found that: (1) most states rely on URESA petitions and registrations; (2) procedures lack uniformity among states and among offices within states; (3) delays in wage withholding exist because offices improperly couple their requests for wage withholding with other such congressionally mandated enforcement remedies as medical support enforcement and review, modification of child support award levels, interception of tax refund checks, and collection of arrearages to repay welfare debt; (4) offices responding to out-of-state requests for wage withholding reported median response times ranging from 6 to 16 weeks, but reported that responding offices took a median of 12 to 26 weeks to respond to requests; (5) missing or inaccurate noncustodial parent or employer information, noncustodial parents terminating employment before garnishment orders are served, and large caseloads contribute to delays in wage withholding; and (6) child support offices suggest that Congress statutorily authorize initiating states to send withholding orders directly to out-of-state employers.

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