If you are ordered to pay child support (or other support) by Income Withholding Order (IWO), we have a few things for you to keep in mind. We’ll start by giving you a couple of critical pieces of advice to keep your account in good standing with the court and then some general reminders and tips.
Critical Tip #1 – Know Your Specific Obligations (in detail)
First, make sure you clearly understand what your obligations are (in detail). A common problem is for someone to think that just because their employer is withholding money from their paycheck that everything is fine – that may not be the case.
Read your final judgment, settlement agreement, IWO and other Orders carefully so you are clear when your payments begin. It is imperative that you clearly understand when payments begin, how much and how often payments should be, and when payments will end. If you are not certain about any of these items ask your attorney or call the Clerk Of Court right away.
In our experience, telling judges “you didn’t understand” usually doesn’t help your case. It is best to make sure you understand your obligations from the start.
Critical Tip #2 – Know Your Due Date
Know what the payment due date means – precisely. For example, if your are ordered to pay $300 on the 15th of the month, it usually means the ENTIRE $300 is due BEFORE the 15th of the month.
The wording in the order varies greatly from order to order so discuss with your attorney or the Clerk Of Court if you have questions.
Critical Tip #3 – Monitor The First Few Months Of Payments Very Closely
Be very diligent about monitoring the first several months of payments because it is YOUR responsibility to ensure payments are made on time. Be aware of the administrative delays associated with starting a new Income Withholding Order and the general legal process. It is common for a judge to sign a final judgment that may order payments to begin soon (sometimes just days after signing). However, it can take weeks for the administrative process of having money withheld from paychecks to begin. During this transition time, the payor usually must make payments directly to ensure payments do not become delinquent. Once a few months have elapsed and regular deductions from paychecks have been going for awhile, the process usually goes smoothly.
If you are not sure where you stand, call the Clerk Of Court and ask them. You can also pick up a payment history showing exactly when you have been assessed support, when payments have been received, and any fees or interest you have been charged. They do charge a small fee to print this for you.
General Tips, Reminders and Warnings About Paying by IWO
- Review and understand the IWO language about bonuses and infrequent payments
- Review and understand the IWO language about the maximum withholding amount.
- Review the IWO information about FLSDU and employer fees and make sure you are paying enough to cover these fees.
- Ask your employer if they will be collecting / deducting any fees to cover their administrative fees (they are allowed to charge a fee to pay administrative costs – see your Florida Addendum To Income Withholding Order).
- Review the Income Withholding Order (IWO) / Income Deduction Order (IDO) and the Florida Addendum to Income Withholding and compare it closely to your final judgment. Check these documents for inconsistency between the final judgment and between each of the forms. Discrepancies and errors can cause problems. Fixing errors are usually easier the sooner they are identified!
- Keep copies of all your pay stubs documenting money withheld from your paycheck for your records. Periodically verify that money withheld from your paycheck is what you are being credited for by the FLSDU. You can get a print out from the Clerk Of Court as well.
- Be aware of the maximum withholding amounts. If your employer cannot withhold enough from your paycheck(s) because of the withholding limits, you may be required to pay the difference yourself (contact your attorney or Clerk Of Court if you have concerns).
- If you have multiple IWO’s filed with your employer make sure you understand how deductions and payments will be prioritized between the multiple IWO’s.
- If you change jobs you may have to make the payments to the FLSDU yourself until a new IWO is setup with your new employer.
- If your pay is erratic or if you sometimes do not get a check (for example if you don’t work full time, go on leave/vacation, or are on commission), you are still responsible for making court ordered payments even if they are not being withheld from a paycheck. Be sure to keep up with your payments.
- Be aware it can take several weeks for an IWO to be implemented and payments withheld from your check. Speak to your employer and verify when deductions will begin to be withheld from your check. You are usually responsible to ensure all payments get made to the FLSDU even if they are not being withheld from your paycheck (see next section for more details about this).
- If your payment is due based on your payroll cycle or if your pay cycle changes (either because you change jobs or your employer changes the way you are paid), you may need to contact the Clerk of Court to have your support obligation changed in their computer (depends upon what your final judgment says).
Monitor The IWO Termination Date Closely
When you reach the period when payments are supposed to terminate, be very careful not to over pay. Confirm with the Clerk Of Court to confirm your current balance. Contact your payroll department in advance to ensure they are aware payments are terminating and understand when the last payment will be made. Double check with the Clerk Of Court that it is correct with their records. It can be difficult, or impractical, to get refunds for over payments (paying too much) so make sure termination of payments is done at the correct time.