Income Withholding

Frequently Asked Questions

What if an employer sends the amount withheld to the wrong office?
An employer who sends the amount withheld to the wrong office or person must resend the amount to the agency or person identified in the Order/Notice no later than two business days after the date of receiving the returned amount. [TFC §158.212]
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How will I know I have to deduct support from an employee’s pay?
You will receive an order/notice to Withhold Income for Child Support for each employee whose child support payment must be deducted from the employee’s pay. You should not deduct child support from an employee’s pay until the order/notice relating to the employee is delivered to you, or the employee voluntarily requests income withholding. You must, however, continue to comply with an income withholding order until you receive an order/notice or some other similar notice or letter from an authorized person that replaces the current order.
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Will I have to tell the employee?
The employee will have been given notice that the withholding will occur.

Before you receive a judicial writ of withholding, the employee will have had an opportunity to contest the withholding. An administrative writ of withholding is issued to the employer and employee at the same time. If an employee claims not to have received notice, have the employee contact the appropriate child support office or the entity that issued the order/notice.

If you receive an order/notice from a person or entity in another state, it should be in substantial conformity with the form set out in the Texas Family Code (TFC) and should be marked on the form that a copy needs to be provided to the employee.

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Can I honor a copy of the order or only a notarized original?
The title IV-D agency and a domestic relations office have the authority to administratively order income withholding for child support and to issue an order/notice to Withhold Income for Child Support (Administrative Writ of Withholding) directly to an employer, and thus such an instrument will not be a document certified by the clerk of the court. [TFC §158.501]

When an Order/Notice to Withhold for Child Support is issued by the court, the clerk of the court keeps the original and issues a certified copy to the employer. The clerk may issue the certified copy of the order/notice by first class, or if requested, by certified or registered mail, facsimile, or electronic mail to the employer. The certified copy must be honored. The clerk may deliver an order or judicial writ of withholding under Subsection (c) by electronic mail if the employer has an electronic mail address or by facsimile transmission if the employer is capable of receiving documents transmitted in that manner. If delivery is accomplished by electronic mail, the clerk must request acknowledgment of receipt from the employer or use an electronic mail system with a read receipt capability. If delivery is accomplished by facsimile transmission, the clerk’s facsimile machine must create a delivery confirmation report. [TFC §158.105]

An employer may also receive an income withholding order from another state. If the instrument appears regular on its face, the employer must honor it as if it were issued by a Texas court. [TFC §159.502] The order/notice should be in substantial conformity with the form set out in the TFC.

Non IV-D attorneys, individuals, and non-governmental entities must submit a Notice of an Order to Withhold and include a copy of the income withholding order unless, under a state’s law, an attorney in that state may issue an income withholding order. In that case, the attorney may submit an order/notice to Withhold and include a copy of the state law authorizing the attorney to issue an income withholding order/notice.

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What should I do if I receive an order that has obvious errors in it?
An employer should contact the attorney or office that requested issuance of the order/notice so that the necessary action can be taken to correct the error. An employer may also file a motion for a hearing on the applicability of the order or writ within 20 days of receiving the order/notice. This is a fairly simple procedure that results in an informal hearing. The employer can request that the judge or the Child Support Division clarify the intentions of the order. The employer should attempt to comply with the order/notice pending the results of the hearing. [TFC §158.205]
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What should I do if an employee has an existing IRS levy, and I receive an order to withhold child support?
By law, a child support income withholding instrument that is based on a support order that was signed by the court before the date that the employer receives a wage levy from the Internal Revenue Service takes priority over an IRS levy. [26 U.S.C. 6334(a)(8)]
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What should I do if an employee has an existing federal wage garnishment to pay a non-tax debt and I receive an order to withhold child support?
Income withholding orders for child or spousal support take precedence over all federal wage garnishments for non-tax debts. [31 USC 3720D(h); 31 CFR 285.11(i)(3)(i)]
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What should I do if an employee has a non-federal garnishment to pay for a non-support debt and I receive an order to withhold child support?
First and foremost, the Texas Constitution, unless superseded by a federal law that permits a federal agency to garnish a Texan’s wages, prohibits the garnishment of wages for debts other than child or spousal support. If an employer receives a garnishment order against a Texas employee’s wages (perhaps from a creditor in a sister state) that is not a child or spousal support income withholding instrument, the employer is prohibited by Texas law from complying with the garnishment order. If for some reason Texas amends its Constitution to permit garnishment for other debts, Texas Family Code §158.008 provides that withholding for child support has priority over any garnishment, attachment, execution, or other assignment or order affecting disposable earnings.
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Do I begin withholding even though my employee claims to have never received an order/notice?
Yes, withhold child support from the employee’s pay check according to the instructions in the order. Tell the employee to immediately contact the local child support office or a private attorney. The employer should continue to withhold payments until the court orders otherwise, or until another order/notice or some other official notice from an authorized person indicates otherwise.
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What steps should I take if an employee is receiving Workers’ Compensation and not receiving wages?
If an employer is not paying the employee’s wages, withholding cannot take place. However, Workers’ Compensation is a substitute for wages and is subject to withholding. Unless the employer is self-insured, the employer must send a copy of the order/notice to the insurance carrier with whom the claim has been filed. If the employee will not be returning to work, the employer must notify the court and obligee of the termination of employment within seven days and provide the employee’s last known address, and the name and address of the new employer, if known. [TFC §158.206 and §158.213]

If the employee returns to work after being on Workers’ Compensation, the employer should resume income withholding according to the order/notice.

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What if I receive an order, and the obligor is not my employee?
An employer should promptly notify CSD by calling the Child Support toll-free number. An employer will be referred to the proper child support office.
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What if I receive an order to withhold from another state?
An employer in Texas is required to honor income withholding orders issued in another state as long as the order appears valid. The order/notice should be in substantial conformity with the form set out in the TFC.

On receipt of the order from another State, an employer must immediately provide a copy of the order to the employee and remit the amounts as directed in the withholding order. [TFC §159.502] If you are currently withholding income for a family, based on a child support order and you receive another order for the same family directing you to send the payments to a different payment registry, you should contact the following to determine the proper registry to which payments should be sent:

  • Your company’s legal counsel
  • The Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General
  • The private attorney or the agency that sent the subsequent order
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I am withholding child support from the earnings of more than one employee. Can I combine these payments?
Yes, but combine only those payments that go to the same registry. In Texas, some payments are mailed to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit and some to county registries. Verify whether the county registry will accept one check for multiple obligors. See the form and instructions for combining payments.

Combined payments sent to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit must include the following identifying information for each employee on a processing form:

  • OAG case number / court cause number
  • Name and SSN of each employee (obligor) for whom child support was withheld
  • Amount withheld per order/notice
  • Obligee’s name and SSN, if available
  • Name of the county or county’s federal information processing standard code
  • Date on which the withholding occurred
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What should I do if an employee of CSD wants me to make corrections to an order?
An employer is required to follow the terms of an order/notice and is not obligated to honor telephone requests for corrections or changes to order/notices. Many orders do not terminate just because a child turns 18 years old. If a correction or change is needed on an order/notice, request that an amended writ, modified order, or official letter be sent. Until then, an employer should continue to comply with the order/notice.
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When an employee with a support order terminates and is rehired by the same company, is the order in effect immediately upon the employee’s return or should the employer wait to receive a new order?
The employer should wait to receive a new withholding order as there may have been a subsequent order with a modified child support payment amount since the last pay period of employment.
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What is the length of retention for support orders or records concerning withholding?
No length of retention is specified in the TFC. It is up to each employer as to how long records are retained.
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Does the reaching of the current support obligation end date that is stated in the court’s child support order affect the employer’s duty to withhold as demanded in the income withholding order? (A typical Texas order requires that the current support obligation continues until the child graduates from high school or reaches age 18, whichever is later.)
No, the employer is still bound to comply with the terms of the income withholding order until the income withholding order is superseded by an updated income withholding order or until the income withholding order is terminated by the court or issuing agency.

In many cases, the ending of the support obligation results in the existing income withholding order being replaced by an updated order that simply increases the amount ordered to be withheld in order to pay past-due support by the amount of the now expired support obligation:

Existing income withholding order:

You are required by law to deduct these amounts from the employee’s/obligor’s income until further notice.

$ 300.00 monthly in current support

$ 150.00 monthly in past‑due support

Arrears 12 weeks or greater? yes [X] no [ ]

Updated order:

You are required by law to deduct these amounts from the employee’s/obligor’s income until further notice.

$ 0.00 monthly in current support

$ 450.00 monthly in past‑due support

Arrears 12 weeks or greater? yes [X] no [ ]

If the employee contends that support has ended or is being over-withheld, the employer should advise the employee to direct his concerns to the court or agency that issued the income withholding order.

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Is a diploma or graduation certificate required to stop the order or should the employer require an official release of withholding?
If there is no termination date in the withholding order, the employer should require an order terminating withholding or an official letter from an authorized person (see preceding answer) before stopping income withholding.
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Should an employer honor an order/notice that is addressed to a different employer?
A properly issued order/notice is binding on an employer regardless of whether the employer is specifically named in the order/notice. [TFC § 158.201(b)]
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My employee has requested I withhold wages for child support. I have not received an order/notice. Should I honor my employee’s request?
While an employer is not required by statute to comply with an employee’s request to voluntarily withhold and remit withheld payments without being provided an order/notice, it is recommended that an employer make every effort to assist the employee in fulfilling his (or her) duty of support. It is suggested an employer require in writing a request for voluntary withholding from the employee.

Employers need to verify the proper location for payments. For Texas support orders, it usually is the following address:

Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit
PO Box 659791
San Antonio, TX 78265‑9791

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The federal form is entitled “Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support.” Should I honor the demand to pay spousal support?
Yes. Since September 1, 2001, the TFC has permitted income withholding for spousal maintenance.
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Are payments made by an employer to an employee to reimburse the employee for employment-related expenses included in the definition of “earnings” for the purpose of calculating the maximum amount that may be garnished from an employee’s paycheck under federal and State garnishment limitation laws, thus increasing the maximum amount that may be garnished from the employee’s wages?
This is an unsettled question of law. Absent concerns that an employer is intentionally mislabeling payments to an employee as expense reimbursements rather than as wages in order to thwart an income withholding instrument, the Texas IV-D agency will not challenge an employer that chooses to exclude expense reimbursements in its determination of the maximum amount that may be withheld in response to a child support income withholding instrument.”
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Should I include the tips that my employee reports to me as part of that employee’s “earnings” when I do the calculations to determine the maximum amount that I can withhold from his earnings?
It is the opinion of the Child Support Division that tips reported to the employer as required by federal Internal Revenue Code § 6053, whether pooled or not, are part of an employee’s “earnings” under the TFC in that they represent a “payment to . . . an individual, regardless of source and how denominated” that arises as a direct result of employment. As such, reported tips should be included in determining disposable earnings under federal and Texas law. Including tips in an employee’s earnings increases the maximum amount that may be withheld for the support of the employee’s children.

However, an employer may only withhold amounts over which he has control. If the maximum amount that can be withheld for a particular employee for a given pay period is $200 (based on employee tips and employer wages), but the employer only has $150 of the employee’s salary remaining after paying the amounts required by law to be withheld, then of course the employer can only withhold the $150. In this instance, the only “earnings” that will make their way to the employee are his tips.

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Are employers required to withhold child support from payments to an independent contractor?
Yes, the child support garnishment needs to be honored with respect to an independent contractor. Title 5 of the Texas Family Code broadly defines an “employer” as anyone, an individual or an entity, “that pays or owes earnings to an individual.” [TFC § 101.012]

The term “earnings” is also broadly defined as “a payment to ... an individual, regardless of source and how denominated.” The definition goes the further step of specifically saying that “earnings” include payments to an independent contractor. [TFC § 101.011]

Texas Family Code Chapter 158, “Withholding from Earnings for Child Support,” contains the Texas statutes that every employer needs to follow. More specifically, [TFC § 158.201] directly tasks the employer to comply with the judicial or administrative writ of withholding.

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How much should be withheld if the payment period is irregular?

In the absence of a set wage period, the employer must (1) determine the period of the services for which the independent contractor is being compensated, and (2) appropriately determine the amount to withhold based on the base period specified in the income withholding order.
Example: The gross amount to be paid to the independent contractor for three months’ of work and the amount due to the independent contractor under the terms of the contract is $3000.
Order Information: This document is based on the support or withholding order from Texas. You are required by law to deduct these amounts from the employee’s/obligor’s income until further notice.
$75.00 per week current child support
$25.00 per week past due child support (arrears are greater than 12 weeks)
Total of $100 per week to be forwarded to the payee below.
You do not have to vary your pay cycle to be in compliance with the support order. If your pay cycle does not match the ordered payment cycle, withhold one of the following amounts:
$100 per weekly pay period
$200 per biweekly pay period (every two weeks)
$216.67 per semimonthly pay period (twice a month)
$433.33 per monthly pay period
Since the pay period for this particular pay period is three months, the employer must withhold three months’ worth of child support (3 x $433.33 = $1300) or the maximum amount permitted by law to be withhold for child support, whichever is less. Since the employer does not withhold FIT or FICA from the amount due to the independent contractor, the independent contractor’s “disposable earnings” will be equal to gross earnings. [TFC § 101.010] The TFC withholding limit in this situation would be $3000 x 50% = $1500. Since the $1300 withholding as commanded by the income withholding order is less than the limit, the employer must withhold $1300 and promptly remit this amount in accordance with the income withholding order’s instructions.

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What if my employee informs me the bonus has already been taken into consideration in determining the monthly amount of child support and is already being withheld?
The employer must still contact OAG if the bonus is equal to or greater than a gross amount of $500.
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What if I have contests and an employee wins a truck, vacation, or non-monetary item? Is the value of the item considered a lump sum payments?
No, the lump sum withholding is strictly applied to income.
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How will OAG enforce this new process for failure to report lump sums?

The enforcement action, up to and including judicial enforcement for failure to withhold income, will be taken against any employer who fails to comply with the lump sum reporting requirements.
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Does the employee know about this law or is the employer required to advise them when the bonus is given?
The employer will receive a document explaining the law which can be provided to the employee at the time the bonus is given.
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When the payment is submitted, does the employer need to identify the payment as a lump sum?
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Should payments for an amount withheld from a lump sum be remitted to the State Disbursement Unit?
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What is the maximum amount that may be withheld from a lump sum payment?
The maximum amount that may be withheld is 50 percent of the lump sum after taxes or the total amount of arrears, whichever is less.

Type Example 1 Example 2 Example 3 Example 4
Bonus Disposable Earnings $10,000 $500 $3,000 $3,000
Arrears $5,000 $10,000 $600 $2,000
Withhold $5,000 $250 $600 $1,500
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How will the employer be notified to withhold part or all of a lump sum payment?
The employer will receive a faxed authorization from the OAG in response to submitted employee information.
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Should the employer withhold lump sum payments when a bonus is paid in company stock or directed to another investment fund?
Yes, if the employee receives a lump sum payment of company stock or requests that a lump sum payment be directed into a 401K, company stock, or another investment fund, then the employer should withhold from the lump sum payment before paying or directing it to another investment fund.
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Are all past due amounts (child support, medical support, dental support, and spousal support) required to be reported for lump sum distribution?
Child support, medical support, and dental support arrearages are reported, but spousal support is not.
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When reporting the amount of the lump sum, should the gross or net amount be reported?
Gross amount.
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Do I have to report the lump sum payment if it is from a medical settlement due to injury on the job?
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When the employee has multiple cases with arrears and there is a 50% limit, how do we apply the lump sum?
Until the arrearage amount is satisfied on a case, 50% of the lump sum payment is applied equally to all cases.
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Is a commission considered a bonus?
No, a commission is not a bonus; it is a type of compensation; the date of payment is generally regular, i.e. the 10th of the month, but the amount may vary. For example, if an employer pays its employee three times per month (2 regular paychecks for salary, and one for commissions), each should be subject to the withholding order, subject to the 50% maximum.
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What if I believe the order/notice should not apply to me as the employer?
An employer may request a hearing with the court or CSD, as appropriate, if the employer believes that the order/notice should not be applied to the employer. A motion for a hearing on the applicability of an order/notice must be requested no later than 20 days after the date of an order/notice is received. The employer must continue to withhold pending further order of the court or action of CSD.
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Is there some type of compensation for an employer complying with a income withholding order?
An employer may deduct an administrative fee from an employee’s disposable earnings in addition to the amount withheld for child support. The fee may not be more than $10 each month. [TFC § 158.204]
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What if I do not want to hire someone because they have an income withholding order?
Employers are prohibited by law from discriminating against an employee because of income withholding for child support. An employee cannot be terminated or disciplined because of income withholding for child support. An employer may not refuse to hire an employee because of income withholding.

Employers who violate this law prohibiting discrimination of the basis of income withholding are subject to legal action against them by the employee or the IV-D agency that could result in the awarding of damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees to be paid by the employer to the employee. [TFC § 158.209]

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What if I do not want to comply with the order/notice?
An employer who does not comply with the order/notice is liable for the following:
  • To the obligee for the amount not paid
  • To the obligor/employee for the amount withheld and not paid
  • For reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs
    [TFC § 158.206]

An employer who knowingly fails to withhold the court ordered child support may be subject to a $200 fine for each pay period the employer failed to (1) withhold income for child support or (2) remit the income withheld to the person or office identified in the order/notice within the time required. [TFC § 158.210]

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What is a remittance identifier?
A remittance identifier consists of a total of 20 alpha-numeric characters. The first ten characters will be the OAG Case Number. Next will be the first ten characters of the court cause number truncated with no special characters. Employers must include a remittance identifier when sending payments for an IWO.
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Why is a remittance identifier needed?
A remittance identifier is needed as the case identifier on the Electronic Funds Transfer/Electronic Data Interchange (EFT/EDI) record.
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Do I have to honor a withholding order for attorneys’ fees?
Yes, if the income withholding order or notice (IWO) is issued by the OAG or a court and the employee has sufficient disposable income after withholding for any existing support obligations. [TFC § 158.0051]
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The existing withholding orders for support seek amounts that already exceed 50% of my employee’s disposable income. Do I have to honor a withholding order for attorneys’ fees?
Not at this time. An IWO for attorneys’ fees does not replace an existing IWO for child, medical or spousal support in the same cause, and is subordinate to it. TFC § 158.0051(b).

Example: Employee is paying support under an IWO seeking current support of $600.00 per month, and a child support arrears payment of $300.00 per month. Employee’s disposable income is $400.00 per week. Employer receives an IWO seeking payment of $50.00 monthly for attorneys’ fees. Because the weekly amount to be withheld for support equals $207.69 ($900 times 12 divided by 52), and Employee’s disposable income is $400.00, the child support amounts exceed 50% of disposable income. In this situation, the Employer will not be able to honor the IWO for fees.

However, if you receive an order modifying or terminating the amount to be withheld for support, and as a result, your employee’s disposable income is sufficient to comply in whole or in part with the IWO for attorneys’ fees, at that point, you must honor the withholding order for attorney’s fees to the extent there is disposable income available within the 50% limit after you comply with all IWOs for support (including amounts for arrears).

Example: Employee is paying support under an IWO seeking current child support of $400.00, current medical support of $70.00, and a child support arrears payment of $150.00. Employer receives an IWO seeking a payment of $100.00 monthly for attorney’s fees. If Employee is paid twice monthly and in one bi-monthly pay period has disposable income of $700.00, $350.00 of which is subject to withholding. In this situation, the employer should withhold $310.00 for child support (1/2 of the total monthly obligations of $620.00) and may honor the IWO for attorneys’ fees for $40, an amount that is less than ½ the monthly amount sought to be withheld.

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I received an IWO for attorneys’ fees that is not on the federal OMB form. Should I reject it?
No. The federal OMB form is mandatory for IWOs for support, but not for fees. Texas Family Code 158.0051 allows the IWO for fees to be payable directly to the party (usually the Obligee) or the party’s attorney, and can require payments to be remitted to the Obligee at his or her home address, directly to the attorney, or to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). Because the OMB form directs support to the SDU, it is not appropriate for an IWO for private attorney’s fees to be issued using the OMB form. An IWO for fees payable to the OAG will be on the OMB form, and will direct amounts withheld for fees to be sent to the SDU at a different P.O. Box:

State Disbursement Unit
PO Box 245993
San Antonio, TX 78224-5993

Employers must not send amounts withheld to pay fees payable to the Obligee or a private attorney to the SDU at P.O. Box 245993. This separate post office box is only to be used for fees payable to the OAG.

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I received an IWO directing me to remit private attorneys’ fees payable to a private attorney to the SDU. Should I send payments for fees along with the child support payments?
No. A private attorney cannot receive fee payments through the SDU because the attorney cannot open a case under which to receive the payments. If you receive an IWO directing payments to a private attorney through the SDU, you should request that the attorney provide an IWO that directs payment to the attorney’s office.
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I received an IWO directing me to remit private attorneys’ fees payable to the Obligee to the SDU. Should I include amounts for the fees in my regular remittance of child support paid under the IWO issued for support?
No. While a court-ordered Obligee is able to receive payments through the SDU, the Obligee must open a separate account at the SDU in order to receive fee payments. The cause number will ordinarily be the same as for the support obligation, but the ten digit case number will be different. The separate account ensures that payments intended for fees are not applied to support obligations, and vice versa. Employers remitting payments on a private IWO for attorneys’ fee MUST indicate the correct case number for the fee obligation, as well as the cause number, on or with the remittance. These payments are sent to the regular SDU address.
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The IWO that I received is not issued by the OAG and does not have a court order attached to it. Should I reject it?
Yes. The requirement to attach the court- order supporting withholding applies to IWOs issued to collect court-ordered attorneys’ fees.
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The court order attached to the IWO for private attorneys’ fees awarded the fees “as child support”. Does this mean that the IWO for fees has equal priority with IWOs issued to collect support obligations?
No. Under Texas Family Code 158.0051(b), an IWO for fees is subordinate to existing IWOs seeking to collect support obligations. Withholding for support must never be reduced to accommodate withholding for fees.
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