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Can Child Support Take My Entire Paycheck?

Child custody and support arrangements are two of the most complex matters in a South Carolina divorce case. If you and your spouse do not agree on childcare arrangements, the issue will go to a judge. Judges in Fort Mill will look at one main thing when deciding on a child support agreement: what is in the best interests of the child. The decision will also involve many other factors, including both parents’ incomes.

To learn more about this speak to a Fort Mill child custody lawyer.

How Do the Courts Calculate Child Support?

The point of child support is to provide the children of a divorce with the same quality of living they enjoyed prior to the split. It is not to bankrupt or punish one parent. The paying parent is typically the one who makes more than the other parent, and/or who does not have primary custody. The non-custodial parent’s income is the main factor in child support arrangements.

A judge will only order a support amount the paying parent can reasonably afford, based on a number of different factors.

  • Gross monthly income of the custodial and non-custodial parent
  • Amount for daycare
  • Price of group health insurance
  • Amount of parenting time each parent has with the child

Once the courts issue a child support order, the paying parent must comply, or else the court will hold the parent in contempt. This could result in fines, penalties, and even jail time. The paying parent may request support modification if the parent loses his or her job or gets a demotion, but the courts will only grant a modification request if the parent has a legitimate reason for the loss of income, such as a disability. If the parent misses child support payments, he or she could face a wage garnishment order.

Is Child Support Automatically Garnished?

A family law judge may order wage garnishment if a parent is in arrears of child support payments for too long. Refusing to pay child support could lead to wage garnishment in South Carolina, which means the child support payments will be automatically taken out of your wages before you are paid.

Can Child Support Be Garnished without a Court Order?

Wage garnishment requires a court order. It is a court order for an employer to automatically withhold a portion of a paycheck, to send directly to someone the employee owes. Instead of the full paycheck going to the employee, who can then pay off the institution he or she owes, the money goes straight from the employer to the debtor.

State law does place a limit on how much the courts can garnish a person’s wage for child support. However, the limit is relatively high. Up to 65% of net wages can go toward unpaid child support debt. If you owe money for other reasons besides child support, the maximum caps at just 25% of wages. Child support orders, however, come with higher wage garnishment maximums. The maximum is 50% if you have more than one dependent, but 60% with no other dependents. If you are more than 12 weeks in arrears, however, the courts can take up to 65% of your net wages.

Can You Modify a Child Support Arrangement?

While child support wage garnishment cannot take your entire paycheck, it can take the majority of it. You may be able to fight wage garnishment by filing an official objection. You may object to the payments if the amount of your child support payments will not leave you with enough to live on, or if you believe the amount you owe is incorrect. If you had custody of the child at the time you went into arrears, this is another valid argument for lowering the payment amount.

You may also be able to file a motion for Child Support Modification if a loss of income caused you to miss payments. If you lost your job for an involuntary reason and have not found new work despite a reasonable effort, the courts may agree to either temporarily or permanently modify your original support agreement. Discussing your child support case with a lawyer can help you understand your rights and legal options.