Employer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We understand that there are many things about child support that are complicated and confusing. We are here to help you understand and navigate this process. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by category.
Income Withholding Order (IWO)
1. What is an IWO? What is an Order to Withhold Income for Child Support?
The Income Withholding for Support form, also called an IWO, is a court order served on employers which requires them to withhold an employee’s wages for payment of child support. This form is also called a wage assignment or garnishment order. For more information download the Child Support IWO Factsheet in English or in an accessible version.
2. How will I receive the Income Withholding Order for Support?
The Income Withholding Order for Support is served to employers either as a hard copy or electronically. To receive the form electronically, register for the Electronic Income Withholding (e-IWO) process. To learn more about e-IWOs, see the e-IWO FAQs on this page or download the e-IWO Factsheet.
3. Now that I’ve gotten an IWO, what am I supposed to do?
Read it carefully and follow its instructions. You may need to send a copy to the California State Disbursement Unit (physical address, fax, & email below), if your IWO was issued by an attorney or other private party.
CA State Disbursement Unit (SDU)
PO Box 980218
West Sacramento, CA 95798-0218
By fax: Attention Outreach at 1-888-587-5471
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
You do not need to send a copy if your IWO came from any of the following:
- The California Department of Child Support Services
- A county child support office in California
- Another state’s child support agency
4. Why does the state need a copy of the IWO on my employee?
This document provides the necessary information that enables the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU) to open a case and ensure payments are processed accurately. All states are under a federal mandate to create a single, statewide case registry of all child support orders and to centralize payment processing. The SDU is that single entity for child support cases in California.
5. Will I need to send a copy of the IWO with each payment?
No. You only need to send a copy when there is a change or you receive a new Income Withholding for Support from an attorney or other private party.
6. The Income Withholding for Support doesn’t have a judge’s signature. Do I still have to comply with it?
Yes. The Income Withholding for Support is a federally required form and is used in all support cases in all states. The signature of a judicial officer is not required when the order is sent by a child support agency. If the order is not from an agency you should still consider it valid and send a copy to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU).
7. Does this mean my employee hasn’t been paying their child support?
No. An IWO is issued whenever a child support case is established and the parent with higher earnings or less custody is employed. It is rare for a parent who is employed to be allowed to pay through other means. Employers should not use an Income Withholding for Support as grounds for refusing to hire a person or for taking disciplinary action against an employee, and you could face civil penalties if you do.
8. If an Income Withholding for Support is from another state, must the payment be sent to that state?
Yes. You must comply with income withholding orders from other states. Instructions on the income withholding order will specify where to mail the payment. Please do not send payments ordered by other states to the California State Disbursement Unit.
9. What if the name and/or Social Security number on the Income Withholding for Support don’t match my employee?
Call California Child Support at 1-866-901-3212 to find out if there is an error in the number or name, or if this could be a case of mistaken identity.
10. My employee has a Non 4-D case. What is Non 4-D?
Cases managed by child support agencies in any state are called “4-D” cases, referring to Title IV-D of the Federal Social Security Act, the law that created Child Support Services agencies. These Income Withholding Orders are issued by the child support agency and do not require a judge’s signature.
11. Some of my employees only work part time. What do I do if 50% of their net disposable earnings is less than the withholding amount for the pay period?
California law requires that you only withhold up to 50% of your employee’s net disposable earning each month (this withholding limit varies from state to state). If your employee voluntarily agrees to pay more, he or she should first contact the court or if they have an open case with a local child support agency, that office will work with the employee to make arrangements to pay more.
12. What do I do if an employee has other non-support income attachments?
Except when an IRS tax lien was served prior to the date the child support order was entered, federal and state laws require child support withholding to take priority over all other income attachments. You must withhold the required amount as long as the amount does not exceed 50% of the employee’s net disposable earnings. An Order/Notice for child support has priority against any attachment, execution or other assignment.
13. Can an Income Withholding Order be terminated over the telephone?
No, an IWO form must be used for IWO termination.
Electronic Income Withholding Order (e-IWO)
1. What is an Electronic Income Withholding Order (e-IWO)?
There are two options for implementing the e-IWO process, the System-to-System Option or the No Programming Option. There is no option for emailing IWOs to your organization. Learn more in the e-IWO Factsheet.
2. How does an e-IWO benefit my company?
- Eliminates receiving IWOs by mail
- Reduces phone calls from child support staff
- Increases accuracy and reliability of data
- Saves time, money and resources at no cost to employers
3. Can I use e-IWO to report lump sums and terminations?
Yes. Employers can use e-IWO to submit notification of employee terminations and lump sum payments electronically.
4. What are the available implementation options?
There are two options available:
- No-Programming Option: The No-Programming Option is the easier of the two and requires fewer resources. Employers will
receive a PDF or Excel document to acknowledge or reject the Income Withholding Order. The format you choose will determine how your company exchanges information with the Child Support Enforcement computer program.
- System-to-System Interface Option: The System-to-System Interface Option is suited for employers that receive a high volume of IWOs and have the technological resources to support connectivity. Employers process the electronic records and make the appropriate updates to the payroll system based on the IWO. This option is customized based on your company’s needs and software capabilities. Based on employer experience, implementation of this option can take 3-5 months. This option is recommended for midsize companies and large size corporations with IT resources that can commit to several months of programming.
5. What if our company has limited resources to help implement e-IWO?
If your company has limited resources, then the No-Programming Option is your best option. With this option, employers receive a fillable PDF or Excel spreadsheet to acknowledge or reject the Income Withholding Order.
6. I have more questions. Who can I contact?
1. What should I do if the employee does not have sufficient earnings to satisfy the Income Withholding for Support?
Prioritize deductions in the following order:
- First, pay current support, family support and/or spousal support
- Second, pay current monthly health premiums and/or other current medical support
- Third, pay any ordered support arrears
- Lastly, pay any remaining ordered amounts
2. What should I do if the employee does not have sufficient earnings to satisfy multiple Income Withholdings for Support?
- First, to current support, family support and/or spousal support
- Second, to current monthly health premiums and/or other current medical support
- Third, to payment of ordered support arrears
- Lastly, to any remaining ordered amounts
3. Do I need to send in a separate check for each employee that has an income withholding order?
No. If you cannot send electronic payments, all of your California child support withholdings can be included in a single check. You must include the following information with the payment:
- Employees’ full names
- Employees’ social security numbers
- Court order/case numbers
- Case numbers (as provided by the SDU)
- Amount withheld from each employee
- Date withheld
4. What do I do if an employee has other non-child support income attachments?
Federal and state laws require child support withholding to take priority over all other income attachments, except IRS tax liens served before the child support order was filed. You must withhold the required amount as long as the amount does not exceed 50% of the employee’s net earnings.
5. What should I do if my payment is dishonored or returned by the bank?
Call 1-866-901-3212, option 1, and talk with a customer service agent who will provide further instructions. Business hours are from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific time, Monday to Friday. Be sure to have all pertinent payment information available at the time of the call, including check number, dollar amount, and employee case or participant number.
If you paid through ExpertPay, please call ExpertPay directly at 1-800-403-0879
6. What should I do if I need to place a stop payment request with my bank?
If you need to place a stop payment request, please contact the State Disbursement Unit prior to contacting your bank, and follow the instructions below:
- Complete the Employer Stop Payment Request
- Submit the form using one of the two options:
- Call the State Disbursement Unit at (866) 901-3212, Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00 p.m. PST.
- Submit the form electronically by selecting the “Submit” button on your completed form. When you click “Submit,” you will need to select which email source you would like to use. Then, the document will automatically appear in an e-mail as an attachment. Click send in the email and you will receive an automatic reply by e-mail confirming receipt.
7. How does remitting all income withholding payments to the SDU benefit my business?
There is no need to keep track of multiple addresses for child support agencies. The chance of lost payments is minimized, and postage costs are reduced with electronic payments.
Multiple payments (payments for more than one employee) can be combined into a single transaction.
8. What happens if I need to make programming or other changes to my company’s workflow in order to make electronic payments?
For assistance, contact the SDU Customer Help Desk at 1-866-901-3212 option 1.
9. How do I make payments?
You can make a payment through ExpertPay. Go to ExpertPay.com or call 1-800-403-0879 for more information.
10. Am I required to send my income withholding payments electronically?
If you pay your tax or employment obligations to the California Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), then by law, you must also remit child support income withholding payments to the SDU by EFT.
Detailed information on ACH credit electronic child support payments can be found in the California State Disbursement Unit EFT Employer Information Guide.
11. Should non payment-related correspondence or documents be included with an IWO payment mailed to the California State Disbursement Unit?
For IV-D cases, correspondence should be sent to the Local Child Support Agency case worker. For Non IV-D cases, correspondence should be sent to whoever is listed in the “Contact Information” section of the IWO you received.
12. What do I do with payments I used to send directly to the Person Ordered to Receive Support? Do I need to notify the Person Ordered to Receive Support that future payments will come from the SDU?
A letter will be sent from California Child Support Services to the Person Ordered to Receive Support, notifying them of the change and explaining that all child support income withholding payments must be sent to the SDU for disbursement.
Payments formerly sent directly to the Person Ordered to Receive Support will need a case number to ensure prompt and accurate processing. To obtain a case number, call the SDU at 1-866-901-3212. The case number must accompany all future payments.
California State Disbursement Unit (SDU)
1. Do I have to send payments through the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU)?
- Payments are sent to a single location.
- Payments can be submitted using a credit card or bank account through Expertpay
- Payments can be made electronically, increasing speed, accuracy, security, and convenience.
2. Can I send payments directly to the person receiving support?
No. You should send all income withholding child support payments to the SDU in compliance with state and federal law. With your payment, also be sure to provide the information related to the income withholding, including the employee name, social security number, amount withheld and case number. Payments directly to the other parent (or whoever the child support order names as the recipient) will not be credited to your employee’s obligation and they may be considered delinquent.
If you don’t know the case number, you can find out by calling 1-866-901-3212.
3. If the Income Withholding for Support is not made out to the SDU, do I need a new order?
No. Even though the order is not made payable to the SDU, you must still send the Income Withholding for Support to the SDU.
4. May I allow an employee to pay child support directly to the SDU as long as I know the payments are being made?
No. To comply with the federal mandate that was established by the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) all employers are required to send their employees child support payments to the SDU.
5. What happens after I send the Income Withholding for Support to the SDU?
The SDU will enter the data into the California Child Support Enforcement system. You will then receive a notification from the California Child Support with the case number for each employee.
This case number must be included with all payments sent to the SDU for that employee.
6. Is there a limit on how many employees I can enter on the SDU website?
No. There is no limit to the number of employees you can enter on the SDU’s ExpertPay website.
7. I have more questions. Who can I contact?
8. Can I use an existing file of our child support payment information to provide a bulk file upload of payment information?
Yes. Employers may use the bulk upload option in ExpertPay. Go to www.Expertpay.com or call 1-800-403-0879 to learn more.
1. Am I required to send my income withholding payments using Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT)?
2. What electronic payment options are available for employers?
You can enroll to submit payments using an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) credit through the Automated Clearing House (ACH)
You can make ACH debit payments or credit card payments through Expertpay.com, or call 1-800-403-0879
3. How do I use Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to make a payment?
To use the Electronic Funds Transfer process to submit your payments, you will need to follow the below four steps:
- Complete an enrollment form and submit it to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU):
- By fax: 1-888-587-5471
- By mail:
CA State Disbursement Unit
PO Box 981326, West Sacramento, CA
2. Review the EFT Employer Information Guide provided by the SDU and work with your financial institution
3. Create a test file for review by the SDU
4. Initiate payments after you receive the authorization letter from the SDU
4. How do I make Automated Clearing House (ACH) debit payments if there is a debit block on my bank account?
To avoid your ACH debit child support payment(s) from being rejected, contact your bank and provide them with the DCSS Company Identification Number (Company ID) below:
Company ID: 1946001347
Company Name: SDU CHILD SUPPT
Company Entry Description: CAEPWEB
Verify with your bank that the ACH debit block has been removed from your account before making your payment.
5. How do I register to make payments on the SDU website?
Beginning July 20, 2020, you will need to register at ExpertPay website to make ACH debit or credit card payments . Please go to www.expertpay.com and under the Employer Section, select Register Now.
6. Can I set up recurring payments?
Yes, you can schedule recurring and future dated payments on ExpertPay. Please visit ExpertPay.com or call 1-800-403-0879 for more information.
7. Can I save my employee’s child support payment information on the website?
Yes. You can create a template that stores the information, which you can modify if necessary.
8. Can I make a credit/debit card payment where the card-issuing bank is outside the United States?
Yes, you may use a credit/debit card where the card-issuing bank is outside the United States through ExpertPay. Review your cardholder agreement to determine fees that you may incur from your bank.
9. May I make payments through the automated phone line?
Employers cannot make payments through automated phone line through ExpertPay.
10. If I wish to mail payments, what is the address?
Child support payments should be made payable to “CA State Disbursement Unit,” and mailed to:
CA State Disbursement Unit (SDU)
PO Box 989067
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9067
11. How do I handle lump sum payments such as bonuses, commissions, benefits, and severance payments?
12. An employee is an independent contractor. Can I withhold his/her income?
Yes, independent contractor income can be withheld to pay child support through an Income Withholding Order. For more information, please review the Employer Handbook.
13. May the IWO’s lump sum box be used for recurring lump sums?
An employer may check the lump sum box in addition to either the “original” or “amended” IWO box, but the lump sum box may not be used for recurring lump sums.
1. How do I notify a child support agency that the parent paying support is no longer employed or has not worked for us in years/ever?
When an active employee with a wage garnishment is terminated, complete the Notification of Termination of Employment form and return it to the child support agency handling the case. Also complete the Notification of Termination of Employment if you receive an Income Withholding Order and the individual named is no longer or has never been employed at your company. You may contact the child support agency handling the case if you no longer have the Notification of Termination of Employment form on file, and the agency will record the information.
2. If I submit an employee’s wage withholdings using electronic funds transfer (EFT) can I report the termination of that employee during the EFT payment process?
Yes, employers can report termination of employment by entering a “Y” in the Employment Termination Indicator field (field DED09* of the NACHA file). Do not enter “Y” in this field if your employee is on temporary leave or disability. Please see the Employer EFT Guide for more detailed information and instructions.
3. When does withholding stop?
Withholding stops when the employer is notified to stop by the child support agency handling the case. Current support typically stops when the child is 19, or is 18 and has graduated from high school, whichever occurs first. However, there may be more than one child and often back child support is owed as well. You should continue to comply with the Income Withholding Order and National Medical Support Notice until you receive notice from the agency.
4. What if the employee becomes injured, quits work, is laid off or fired after I begin withholding child support?
You have a duty to report any of the above to the agency that sent you the Income Withholding Order. This is true whether the employee quits or is terminated. When the employee stops working for you, notify the child support office no later than the date of the next payment. You must also provide the employee’s last known address and, if known, the name and address of your former employee’s new employer.
5. Can I fire an employee because they have wage withholding?
Income withholding is the first resort for child support collections, and does not infer any failure to pay on the part of the parent. California law states that an employer SHALL NOT use an Income Withholding Order as grounds for refusing to hire a person or for taking disciplinary action against an employee. If you do, your could face civil penalties.
1. What is the National Medical Support Notice?
The National Medical Support Notice is a two-part notice sent to employers from a local child support agency. Its purpose is to ensure that children receive health care coverage when it’s available and required as part of a child support order.
Employers and health plan administrators are required to complete and comply with the National Medical Support Notice and the Health Insurance Information form, which is available to download below.
2. What does the National Medical Support Notice ask me to do?
- Confirm that the employee is eligible for group health insurance benefits
- Forward instructions to enroll to the designated plan administrator within 20 business days
- After the plan administrator has completed enrollment, the Health Insurance Information form must be completed and returned to the issuing child support agency along with any ID cards, booklets, and summary plan descriptions
- Any interruption of health insurance benefits must be reported to the issuing local child support agency as soon as possible
3. Will the National Medical Support Notice always come from a California enforcing agency?
No. All states are required to use the National Medical Support Notice to enforce health care coverage and your company may receive the National Medical Support Notice from another state.
4. Why did I receive an National Medical Support Notice?
Federal and state laws require that the National Medical Support Notice be sent to the employer within two business days of receipt of the new employer information when child support case match information is received from the National Directory of New Hires, or, within 15 calendar days if the information is from any other source.
5. Who completes the National Medical Support Notice?
Within 20 days of the date on the National Medical Support Notice, you the employer should complete Part A If the employee is eligible for health care coverage, keep Part A and forward Part B to the health care plan administrator, who completes Part B. Once enrollment is complete, the plan administrator must notify the issuing child support agency and you the employer so premium deductions, if required, can begin.
The entire process must be completed within 40 days of the date on the National Medical Support Notice.
6. What if I receive more than one National Medical Support Notice for the same employee?
Determining the best way to handle multiple orders can sometimes be complicated. If you have specific questions about the medical withholding notice and/or regular income withholding, you should contact the issuing child support agency.
7. What if the employee doesn’t want to enroll the child for medical coverage?
The National Medical Support Notice is a qualified medical child support order; therefore, the employee does not have a choice. In order to object, the employee must contact the issuing child support agency as instructed in the notice he or she received. You must still comply with the National Medical Support Notice regardless of whether an objection has been made.
8. What happens if the employee cannot enroll the children until the annual open enrollment?
By law, the National Medical Support Notice requires your company’s insurer to enroll the children in health care coverage at any time.
(See 42 USC 1396g-1(a) and the California Family Code §3751.5(b)(1). If the employee is not enrolled in a plan that is accessible by dependents and one is offered, the employee must change plans and enroll the dependents if it is reasonable in cost.
9. If a union provides health care coverage, what should the employer do?
You should consider the union the plan administrator and forward Part B of the National Medical Support Notice to the union, unless you have checked numbers 1, 2, or 3 in Part A.
10. What if the child is covered under Medi-Cal?
Medi-Cal is not considered a substitute for private health care coverage. You must still comply with the medical withholding order.
11. If the employee reports that the child is enrolled in the other parent’s health care coverage plan, what should I do?
Your responsibilities under the National Medical Support Notice are not affected by the child’s enrollment in the other parent’s health care plan. Continue with enrollment until you receive an order terminating the National Medical Support Notice.
12. Why do I have to send in enrollment information, if the employee has existing health insurance for the children?
Your employee is under court order to supply medical insurance coverage for the children through employment. Enrolling the child is only half the obligation. In order for both you and your employee to be in compliance, it is necessary for this information to be noted in the issuing child support agency file, and for the information to be forwarded to the person receiving support.
13. What if health insurance coverage is available, but the deduction of premiums and the child support exceed 50 percent of the employee’s net disposable earnings?
Complete National Medical Support Notice, Employer Response (Part A), number 5, and return it to the issuing child support agency within 20 business days. Please specify the cost amounts for health insurance benefits.
14. Our company does not offer group health care coverage. Do we have to purchase group health care coverage for the National Medical Support Notice?
No. If your company does not offer this coverage to any of its employees, you are not obligated to provide it for this purpose. Within 20 business days of the date of the National Medical Support Notice, check number 2 of the Employer Response (Part A) and return it by mail to the issuing child support agency shown on the National Medical Support Notice.
15. What should I do if the children live out of state?
Depending on the insurance provider, there may be a “guest membership enrollment” available, and the coverage may extend to another state. After verifying the ZIP Code of the children’s residence with the issuing child support agency, contact the insurance provider to arrange this coverage.
16. If an employees has to pay both child support and health care premiums, how do I prioritize the available funds?
An National Medical Support Notice will provide detailed instructions on how to prioritize between cash and medical support. In some cases you may receive a subsequent notice that the person receiving support has elected to receive health care coverage over cash support, but unless so notified, cash support always has priority over health care premiums. Contact the issuing child support agency for assistance on how to calculate the cash support withholding and health care coverage premium.
17. If the employee doesn’t earn enough to pay both child support and health care premiums, what should I do?
If the employee doesn’t earn enough to cover the cash child support amount and health care coverage premium, you should complete the Employer Response (Part A), number 5 and return it to the issuing child support agency. If necessary, you should also notify the plan administrator to remove the dependents from coverage.
18. What will happen if I don’t comply and enroll the employee’s children?
If medical coverage is available and your organization fails to enroll and send in coverage and materials, the court may find you in contempt and the resulting penalties can include a fine. In addition, any employer who willfully fails to comply with the National Medical Support Notice is liable for the amount incurred in health care services that would otherwise have been covered.
19. When are payments for health care coverage due?
The National Medical Support Notice requires you apply withheld wages to the cost of health care coverage according to your company’s usual policy.
20. When will health care coverage withholding stop?
The withholding order for health care coverage remains in effect until the employer is notified by the issuing local child support agency or receives a court order regarding any changes. However, even if the withholding order for health care coverage is dismissed, the employee may still elect to continue coverage.
21. My employee terminated and I must issue a COBRA letter to the person receiving support. Can I send it to the child support agency if I do not have an address for the support recipient?
Yes, the issuing local child support agency will forward the letter to the support recipient’s last known address. You may view each state’s information regarding income and health care coverage withholding on the US Health & Human Services website.
22. What if I offer medical insurance and receive the NMSN, but my employee, has declined the insurance?
The Parent Ordered to Pay Support may decline health insurance for themselves, but they must still provide it for their children. The employee does not have to be involved in the enrollment process. On the signature line of the enrollment forms, simply write “per court order – copy attached.”
The employee may need to enroll in health coverage or change plans in order to make the employee’s children eligible for health coverage.
23. What if the employee’s dependent children live in another state?
Contact the local child support agency and verify that the children live out-of-state. If so, check to see if your health insurance provider extends coverage to out-of-state residents. If so, the dependent children should be enrolled.
If health care coverage is not “accessible” to children living outside California, check item #2 of the NMSN Employer Response (Part A) and return it to the local child support agency.
24. What if the employee’s dependent children are already covered by the Parent Ordered to Pay Support but under a private plan—or under a current spouse’s plan?
The employer must comply with the NMSN until receipt of a court order or a notice from the local child support agency indicating coverage may be terminated.
25. What if the children are covered under Medi-Cal?
Medi-Cal is not considered a substitute for private health care coverage. The employer must comply with the NMSN or other court order.
26. What if the employee terminates employment?
When an employee with a child support or medical support obligation leaves your company or is terminated, notify the issuing local child support agency within 10 business days of any lapse in health insurance coverage for the minor child(ren). Provide the termination date and employee’s last known address. If you know the name and/or address of the employee’s new employer, please provide this as well. This information should be submitted to the local child support agency on the Termination of Benefits/Employment Notice (DCSS 0114) which will be included in the NMSN packet.
Child support/medical support income withholding orders remain in effect until further notice, so the employer should keep the income withholding order and the NMSN, in the event the employee returns to work. Also, if the employee returns to work, the employer must report the employee as a new hire, to the Employment Development Department.
27. I sometimes receive duplicate documents from the local child support agency for the same employee’s child support case. How can I reduce these?
The local child support agency and the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU) receive information on active child support cases from several databases. If you receive what appear to be duplicate documents, please contact the local child support agency to have the duplicate files deleted.
28. What if I receive a National Medical Support Notice terminating a dependent(s) health coverage?
If you receive a National Medical Support Notice terminating coverage for an employee’s dependent(s), then you must discontinue health insurance for the named dependent(s).
29. What if the employee wants to continue to provide health insurance coverage after receiving a court order termination?
The employee may voluntarily continue to provide health insurance coverage for any qualifying dependent(s).
Reporting New Hires
1. What is the process to report new hires?
Updating Employer Information
1. How does an employer update their employer company information?
Maintaining accurate employer information with California Child Support Services benefits employers by ensuring notices are sent to the proper location and preventing issuance of duplicate notices.