FAQS

Garnishment/Support Orders FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions: Garnishment/Support

How do you calculate Garnishment and Support Order Withholdings from Wages in Virginia?

 These instructions are to assist Virginia employers who have received court or administrative orders requiring the employer to withhold and send wages to satisfy an employee’s debt. These orders should be obeyed in every detail; failure to obey may be grounds for contempt of court. Section 34-29(c) of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended, however, limits the amounts which may be withheld and provides: “No court of the Commonwealth and no state agency or officer may make, execute, or enforce any order or process in violation of this section”.

Notes on garnishments and support orders

“Earnings” are defined to be any “compensation paid or payable for personal services whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, bonus, payments to an independent contractor, or otherwise, whether paid directly to the individual or deposited with another entity or person on behalf of and traceable to the individual, and includes periodic payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program.” Code of Virginia, Sec. 34-29(d)(l).

“Disposable earnings” are defined to be “that part of the earnings of any individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amounts required by law to be withheld.” Code of Virginia, Sec. 34-29(d)(2). The present garnishment order is of course not to be considered in determining “disposable earnings.” Note that many common deductions made for the benefit of or at the request of the employee are not required by law to be withheld.

“Garnishment” is defined to be “any legal or equitable procedure through which the earnings of any individual are required to be withheld for payment of any debt.” Code of Virginia, Sec. 34-29(d)(3). This includes court orders not entitled “garnishments”, such as support orders.

Always be sure calculations of protected amounts are based on the current federal minimum wage rate.
No employer may discharge any employee by reason of the fact that his earnings have been subjected to garnishment for any one indebtedness. Code of Virginia, Sec. 34-29(f).

An employer may charge the employee a processing fee, not to exceed $10.00 for each garnishment summons, and $20.00 for each tax lien. For support orders, see below.

Support Orders:
Federal law requires employers to honor income withholding orders from child support agencies in other states. The processing fee is determined by the law of the state in which the employee is principally employed. Under Virginia law, the employee may be charged $5.00 for each pay period for support orders.
Payments are to be remitted on the day of withholding unless the employer remits electronically (EFT), in which case remittance must be within 4 days of the withholding.

Support withholding orders can legally be served on employers by facsimile as well as by mail.
The employer is required by law to provide the employee a copy of the withholding order showing the amount withheld; the employer should receive a copy for this purpose.

Other
A local, state or federal tax collection, or a Bankruptcy Court collection: there is no limit on the amount which can be withheld; withhold the full amount in accordance with the court order.

How to withhold for ordinary debt?

How to Withhold for Ordinary Debts 
A. First Step
Calculate the protected amount; the employee’s check cannot be reduced below this amount. The Federal Minimum Wage Rate is $7.25/hour.Weekly Pay Period. Multiply the Federal Minimum Wage Rate (“F.M.W.R.”) times 40. Example: If F.M.W.R. is $7.25/hour; $7.25 times 40 = $290.00; this is the protected amount.Biweekly Pay Period. Multiply F.M.W.R. times 40 times 2. Example: $7.25 times 40 times 2 = $580.00 ; this is the protected amount.Semimonthly Pay Period. Multiply F.M.W.R. times 40 times 2.16665. Example: $7.25 times 40 times 2.166665 = $628.33; this is the protected amount.Monthly Pay Period. Multiply F.M.W.R. times 40 times 4.33330. Example: $7.25 times  40 times 4.33330 = $1,256.66; this is the protected amount.Pay Period Greater than One Month.Calculate number of weeks by dividing days in work period by 7, to four decimal places.Multiply the F.M.W.R. times 40 times the number of weeks. Example: assuming a F.M.W.R. of $7.25 and a work period of 46 days: 46 / 7 = 6.5714 weeks; $7.25 times 40 times 6.5714 weeks = $1,905.71; this is the protected amount.

B. Second Step 
Calculate the Maximum Amount Which May Be Garnished; multiply disposable earnings by 25%. Example: assuming weekly disposable earnings of $544.00: $544.00 times 25% = $136.00; no more than this amount can be garnished from the paycheck.

C. Third Step
Calculate the Amount To Be Withheld; subtract the protected amount from disposable earnings, but do not exceed 25% of disposable earnings.

Example 1: Assuming disposable earnings of $600.00 and a biweekly pay period: $600.00 – 580.00 (protected amount, see biweekly pay period example, paragraph A above) = $20.00. Since this does not exceed the 25% maximum ($600.00 times 25% = $150.00), withhold $20.00.

Example 2: Assuming disposable earnings of $2,100.00 and a monthly pay period: $2,100.00 – $1,256.66 (protected amount, see monthly pay period protected amount example, paragraph A above) = $843.34 . Since this exceeds the 25% maximum ( $2,100.00 times 25% = $525.00 ), only the 25% maximum of $525.00  may be withheld.

How do you withhold for multiple garnishments?

Multiple Garnishments
Where more than one garnishment is received on an employee’s wages, it is necessary to determine which has priority and how to withhold. Rules for determining priority can be complicated. It is strongly recommended that you contact each lawyer and party involved, advise them of the situation, and keep them fully informed. An employer acting in good faith and asking for guidance is not likely to incur penalties.

The following principles apply:

A support income withholding order, whenever received, always takes precedence over a garnishment for an ordinary debt. Whenever there is a support order, it must be withheld first, and additional amounts withheld for ordinary debts only after the support order has been satisfied, if the maximum has not already been exceeded.

Calculate the maximum amount which can be garnished for each paycheck. If there is more than one pending garnishment (including support orders), determine the maximum amount that can be garnished for each one. The garnishment summons with the highest maximum amount sets the limit for the amount of wages that can be garnished from any one paycheck regardless of how many garnishments are pending. If the employer is already withholding 25% or more of an employee’s paycheck for any reason and another garnishment order is received for an ordinary debt, nothing else can be withheld. If one of the garnishments is a support order, up to 65% of the disposable earnings may be withheld for support, and nothing (over 25%) may be withheld for an ordinary debt.

Where there are two or more garnishments for ordinary debts, the priority between them is determined by the order in which the writs of fieri facias are delivered to the sheriff. This date may be determined from the Garnishment Summons which provides both the date of issuance of the summons and, if different, the date of delivery of the writ of fieri facias to the sheriff.

Examples of common problems:

Assume an employer is withholding 25% for a garnishment on an ordinary debt. A support order is subsequently served on the employer. The support order has priority under Virginia law and must be honored first; stop withholding for the ordinary garnishment until the support order has been satisfied. Withholding for the ordinary debt is then resumed.

Assume an employer is withholding 25% for a garnishment on an ordinary debt. The employer then receives a second garnishment for an ordinary debt. The employer must continue to honor the first garnishment – even after the return date – until it is paid in full, provided that the first judgment creditor renews the first garnishment without a lapse in a pay period.

Assume an employer is withholding 25% for a garnishment on an ordinary debt. The employer receives notice of the commencement of a bankruptcy case involving the employee. The employer must stop withholding wages pursuant to the garnishment. The wages withheld prior to the bankruptcy should be submitted to the court that issued the garnishment summons, with notice to the employee, the employee’s bankruptcy attorney, the bankruptcy trustee and the judgment creditor.

How to withhold for support orders

How to Withhold for Support Orders How to Calculate Maximum Withholding for Support OrdersIf the employee 1) is supporting a wife or child in addition to the person being supported by this order, and 2) the support order relates to a period less than 12 weeks prior to the beginning of this work period, a maximum of 50% of disposable earnings may be withheld. Example: assuming disposable earnings of $544.00, the maximum which may be withheld is $544.00 times 50% = $272.00.  (See the Code of Virginia, § 34-29 (b1) (2).If the employee 1) is supporting another person (see above), and 2) the support order relates to a period more than 12 weeks prior (see above), a maximum of 55%, may be withheld. Example: the maximum which may be withheld is $544.00 times 55% = $299.20.  (See the Code of Virginia, § 34-29 (b1) (2).If the employee 1) is not supporting another person, and 2) the support order relates to a period less than 12 weeks prior, a maximum of 60% may be withheld. Example: the maximum which may be withheld is $544.00 times 60% = $326.40.  (See the Code of Virginia, § 34-29 (b1) (2).If the employee 1) is not supporting another person, and 2) the support is more than 12 weeks prior, a maximum of 65% may be withheld. Example: the maximum which may be withheld is $544.00 times 65% = $353.60.  (See the Code of Virginia, § 34-29 (b1) (2).

Other

A local, state or federal tax collection, or a Bankruptcy Court collection: there is no limit on the amount which can be withheld; withhold the full amount in accordance with the court order.

Where can I find additional information on garnishments?

For further information regarding garnishments generally contact:
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
Division of Labor and Employment Law
Main Street Centre
600 East Main Street, Suite 207
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone Number: (804) 371-3104 ext. 131

For further information about support income withholding orders contact:
Virginia Department of Social Services
Division of Child Support Enforcement
730 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone Number: (804) 692-1900