Can the State Deduct Child Support from My Unemployment Compensation?
The Pennsylvania economy continues to be hammered by the recent economic downturn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s current unemployment rate is 6.6%. This might understate the problem, since certain people are not counted (such as those who have given up looking for work).
Fortunately, Congress has passed two stimulus bills to provide unemployment compensation. But what happens if you owe child support? Most of our clients have wage attachment orders entered which deduct money automatically from their paycheck. You might be wondering, “Can the state deduct child support from my unemployment compensation?” As our Media child support lawyer explains, “yes, the state can.”
The Law Requires Support Deductions
As explained at the state’s unemployment compensation website, Pennsylvania law instructs the Department of Labor & Industry (the “department”0 to deduct support from unemployment compensation benefits when the person has an “enforced order.” This Department is in charge of handling unemployment compensation in our state.
You have an “enforced order” if you went through the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) in the County Court of Common Pleas. Only this court can issue support orders affecting unemployment compensation.
How the Withholding Process Works
When you apply for unemployment compensation, you will have to report whether you pay child support. The Department of Labor & Industry can also request this information from the DRS handling your case.
In any event, DRS will be notified if you apply for and receive unemployment. They will then send appropriate documents to the Department of Labor & Industry, which results in them withholding a portion of your unemployment. You should receive a written letter informing you that this is happening.
The Department ends up deducting an amount as specified by the DRS. For example, you might receive $400 in unemployment, and DRS requests the lesser of 50% or $50. This will result in $50 being taken. If you received only $80 in unemployment for the week, $40 would be deducted.
Withholding continues until you stop receiving unemployment benefits or until the DRS no longer requires any withholding.
Being unemployed is incredibly stressful, and benefits can provide a lifeline for people struggling to pay bills as they search for work. Unfortunately, support obligations can eat into these badly-needed funds.
As we explain to our clients, a person obliged to pay child support cannot simply stop, even under economic duress. If they do, any unpaid support continues to accumulate as arrears. They will end up owing more when interest is added in, and they can face enforcement action such as a contempt of court proceeding. Someone who intentionally refuses to pay can end up in jail.
To find out the best course of action, please contact a Delaware County child support attorney. If your economic problems persist, you might request a modification. For example, someone who is disabled probably will not return to their old income. A court modification can reduce child support obligations so that you can support yourself.
Contact Barbara Flum Stein & Associates today to schedule a consultation.