Death and taxes, according to Christopher Bullock in 1716, are the only two things of which we can be sure. With the 21st century, we might add student debt and child support to those certainties. They are also two of the obligations nearly impossible to shirk without consequences.

Garnishment for Child Support

If you owe child support payments in Virginia, you have likely already piqued the interest of the Virginia Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), a remarkably efficient (some might say ruthless) wing of the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Child support obligations stemming from a property settlement agreement, divorce decree, or Virginia court order are not to be trifled with. Even a person earning no income still faces an obligation to pay child support, under Code of Virginia § 20-108.2, which sets the payment schedule’s low end as follows:

  • Earning $0 to $350 a month, you must pay $68 for one child, and up to $169 for six children

Claims of having no income, therefore, don’t hold much sway before a Virginia judge. When DCSE steps in, the obligated parent is in for a heap o’ hurt. This is the list of methods DCSE may use to collect child support, straight from its website:

  • having your employer withhold support from your wages;
  • issuing liens and orders to withhold money in bank accounts and other financial institution accounts;
  • seizing and selling your property;
  • intercepting state and federal payments and refunds due you;
  • reporting your past due support to consumer reporting agencies;
  • requesting the Secretary of State to deny, revoke, restrict or limit your passport; and
  • having the Virginia Employment Commission withhold support from your unemployment benefits

(BTW, don’t ignore the warnings; the other two aces DCSE holds up its sleeves are asking the DMV to suspend or refuse to renew your driver’s license, and asking the court to require you to turn in any certificate, registration, or other business, trade, professional, occupational or recreational license, including hunting and fishing, issued to you.)

When DCSE steps in, garnishment is sure to follow. Garnishment is a legal order allowing DCSE to seize any money you might be getting, from just about any source, including state and federal payments (and refunds) due you.

If, on the other hand, you are owed child support on behalf of your custodial children, DCSE will work with you to compel the obligated parent to pay what is due.

Can They Take Your Stimulus Money?

Struggling Americans have received three rounds of federal stimulus payments in answer to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. $1,200 to individuals earning less than $75K and $2,400 to married couples earning less than $150K went out in April of 2020
  2. $600 payments to individuals and $1,200 to couples under the same earnings guidelines as the first stimulus went out in January, 2021
  3. $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals ($2,800 for couples), again with the same earnings restrictions as the first two rounds, went out in March, 2021

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES; Congress loves its message-laden acronyms) signed in March, 2020 forbade states and the federal government from garnishment. It did, though, allow private debt collectors acting on court orders and state agencies to garnish the stimulus payments to collect past-due debts, including child support.

The second round of stimulus payments fell under the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and did not allow child support payments to be garnished. Therefore, though the overall amount was half the first stimulus payment, you got the whole amount.

The third round of stimulus payments came under a convoluted process called budget reconciliation and can be garnished for state and federal debts but cannot be seized to pay past-due child support.

If you owe past-due child support, you are not free of the obligation even if you benefited from the second and third stimulus payments. When you file your federal taxes, both your tax refund and Recovery Rebate Credit can be seized to pay delinquent child support.

Whose Money Is It, Really?

If you owe child support, bear in mind that the financial obligation is from you to the beautiful children you helped bring into the world. You may grumble and fuss, but you and your family law attorney had (and still have) opportunities to object to the amounts, payment schedules, and duration of the child support payments. The legal obligation is yours to bear but consider who benefits: your own children.

If you are owed child support, bear in mind you are acting on behalf of your children, to bring to them the best possible childhood with the financial support of the parent who is obligated to pay child support. You owe them your best efforts to collect what is due.

If you are owed past-due child support in Virginia, please give DCSE and the state time to complete the process. The stimulus garnishment does not divert automatically to you. It will return to Virginia, which will then issue a separate check to you, the custodial parent. This process could take weeks.

At The Firm For Men, we watch out for not only our Virginia men, but also our Virginia children. We protect men’s rights, but never at the risk of infringing children’s rights. Contact us online to discuss your child support concerns, or telephone our office today at (757) 383-9184.