Illinois Supreme Court Raises Standards for Wage Garnishment

All too many parents in Illinois know that winning a favorable child support determination is often only half the battle. A disturbingly high number of noncustodial parents are perfectly content to flout these orders and refuse to pay in defiance of the courts. Direct wage garnishment is one of the most powerful and effective tools available for forcing compliance. However, in light of a recent clarification by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding the technical requirements of garnishment notices, attorneys should be careful. 

The Income Withholding for Support Act allows parents entitled to child support to enforce that obligation directly against the obligor parent’s employer if the parent has fallen behind in child support payments. The parent may exercise this right by filing a notice with the appropriate court and serving it upon the obligor and his or her employer. The notice must contain the following: 

  • The dollar amount to be withheld, including income withholding fees
  • The obligor’s Social Security number
  • The date of entry of the support order
  • The obligor’s rights and duties
  • The consequences to the payor of failing to comply 

In the case of Schultz v. Performance Lighting, Inc., the Supreme Court considered whether an employer could be held liable for failing to comply with a withholding notice that was technically deficient. In that case, the obligee’s attorney failed to include the obligor’s Social Security number. For two years after the withholding notice was issued, the employer failed to withhold the required support payments until the obligee sought the court’s assistance. 

The case ultimately made it to the Illinois Supreme Court, which held that employers have no obligation to comply with withholding notices that do not comply with the mandatory statutory requirements regarding content. Having experienced Illinois child support attorneys who exercise great care and attention to detail when drafting withholding notices can help you avoid costly mistakes.

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