What employers should know about child support

Published 8:44 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

By Ken Paxton

More than 1.6 million Texas children are being raised by a single mom or dad. In most instances, one parent is obligated by court order to provide financial and medical support to the parent with primary custody. By deducting child support from employee paychecks, Texas employers play a key role in improving the economic security of children who rely on child support to cover their basic needs.

For the state fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, the Attorney General’s Child Support Division served more than 1.5 million families and collected a record-breaking $3.9 billion in child support.

Achieving that milestone would not have been possible without the help of Texas employers. Money that employers withheld from employee paychecks accounted for 78 percent of the $3.9 billion collected. In addition, employers responded to 157,039 National Medical Support Notices. With the help of employers, 63,814 children on the child support caseload were enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans.

Deducting child support payments quickly and regularly has a direct and significant impact on child and family well-being. The process helps paying parents in assuming responsibility for their children, and reduces the likelihood of falling behind on payments. Children avoid economic hardship because their ongoing needs are being met.

To facilitate the timely processing of wage-withholding orders, employers are required by federal law to report the names of all newly-hired individuals to my office’s Child Support Division. All employers, from small “mom and pop” operations to big box stores, are required to report newly-hired and rehired employees within 20 calendar days of the date the employee begins working for wages. All employees must be reported, including seasonal, part-time, temporary and contract labor.

The reports we receive from employers are critical because they help us locate working parents who owe child support and send wage-withholding orders to their employers. The efficient processing of wage-withholding orders gets payments to families more quickly, which is especially important during the holiday season.

New-hire reporting also aids the Child Support Division in locating parents for the purpose of establishing paternity, setting child support and taking enforcement actions for noncompliance.

The regular reporting of new hires not only benefits children and families, but also improves the bottom line for employers and taxpayers. The state of Texas cross-matches new-hire data against workers’ compensation, unemployment and public assistance claims to detect unintended overpayment and fraudulent receipt of benefits. Overpayments are recovered and returned to the state.

To ease the administrative burden placed on employers, the Child Support Division offers a variety of electronic methods for responding to income-withholding orders, reporting new hires and complying with other legally mandated duties. Most employers who use online reporting methods incur little or no significant costs to their operations.  For more information, call (800) 850-6442 or visit the Texas Employer Website at www.employer.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

Employers are to be commended for the role they play in ensuring children receive court-ordered financial and medical support.  My office’s successful partnership with Texas employers has generated billions of dollars in increased support for children and helped make their lives more secure.

Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General