Enforcing Child Support Payments: Understanding Income Withholding Orders (IWO)

Child support orders that have been enforced or modified after January 1, 1990 are immediately subject to Income Withholding Orders (IWO) regardless of whether the paying spouse has failed to make payments or not. The intention of an IWO is to ensure that the custodial parent will receive the full amount of child support awarded. If you have just settled child support arrangements, you can expect your employer to receive an IWO soon. Here's what you need to know.

Difference Between IWO and Wage Garnishment

Unlike wage garnishments that take a set amount of your income, an IWO only takes a set percentage. This means that an IWO is subject to change if you get a promotion. You might want to draft up provisions with your divorce attorney that will outline reductions in the percentage that will be taken from your paycheck should you get a bonus or a huge promotion.

Much like wage garnishments, your employer will be required to withhold a portion of your income to the custodial parent or to a state agency responsible for distributing child support upon receiving the IWO.

Types of Income that Are Affected

If you don't hold a regular 9 to 5, but still receive a regular source of income, the divorce courts can order that the child support be withheld from that income source. In short, any income that you receive from a retirement fund, pension, public benefits, unemployment compensation and an annuity will be subject to an IWO. Instead of sending the IWO documents to an employer, the IWO will simply be sent to the public agency providing the income or the retirement plan administrator instead.

Not all income is subject to an IWO, and there are some exceptions. Any income that is provided by Social Security or a private pension that is governed by the Retirement Equity Act (REA) Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERIA) may not be subject to the orders outlined in an IWO. This is due to the fact that most of these income sources are subject to anti-alienation causes that prohibit the governing administration body from paying anyone other than the beneficiary.


Fortunately, the responsibility of filing an IWO is on the custodial parent's shoulders. In short, you can sit back and relax. Just make sure that all of the information provided in the IWO is correct—such as what the payment amount is and whom the payee will be.