TITLE 15
Domestic Relations

CHAPTER 15-5
Divorce and Separation

SECTION 15-5-24


§ 15-5-24 Support – Wage assignment procedures.

(a) With respect to a support order issued, enforced, or modified on or after January 1, 1994, the income of an obligor shall be subject to immediate income withholding under chapter 16 of this title on the effective date of the order, regardless of whether support payments by the obligor are in arrears; provided, that the income of the obligor shall not be subject to immediate income withholding: (1) if a judge or magistrate of the family court finds that there is good cause not to require immediate income withholding, or (2) if the obligor and obligee (and the department in the case of an obligee subject to an assignment of support rights under § 40-6-9) enter into a written agreement or the family court enters an order which provides for an alternative agreement for the timely payment of support due under the support order. In no event shall the court order wage withholding payable to the obligee directly from any wage withholding agent.

(b) The obligor shall be given the notice by way of the pleadings or otherwise, that his or her income is subject to immediate income withholding as provided in subsection (a) of this section, that the maximum amount of income to be withheld may not exceed the limit permitted under § 303(b) of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1673(b)), and that he or she may contest immediate income withholding, and assert any defenses, exceptions or exemptions to which he or she may be entitled, at a hearing before a judge or magistrate of the family court.

(c) An immediate income withholding order issued under this section shall be filed by the obligee or the department of administration, division of taxation, child support enforcement with the clerk of the family court and shall be subject to the provisions of §§ 15-16-9 – 15-16-12.

(d) A wage withholding made under this section shall be binding upon a wage withholding agent one week after service upon the wage withholding agent of the wage withholding by personal service or by registered or certified mail, until further order of the court. For purposes of this chapter, the term "employer" includes the state and federal governments and the political subdivisions of the state. The wage withholding agent shall remit to the clerk of the family court, or other designated remittee, within seven (7) days of the date of withholding, the amount withheld pursuant to the wage withholding and the wage withholding agent shall specify the date and amount of each withholding included in the remittance, the social security number of the obligor, the child support account number, the employee's name and any other information as required if electronic transfer is utilized. The wage withholding agent may combine withheld amounts from two (2) or more obligors into a single payment, provided that the withholding agent separately identifies the individual obligors and the amount attributable to each obligor.

(e) The wage withholding agent may not use the wage withholding as a basis for the discharge of an employee or for any disciplinary action against the employee.

(f) The wage withholding agent must notify the clerk of the family court, in writing, of the termination of the obligor employee's employment within ten (10) days of termination. Notice must include the name and address of the obligor employee's new employer if known.

(g) A wage withholding under this section shall have priority over any attachment, execution, garnishment, or wage assignment unless otherwise ordered by the court. A wage withholding under this section shall not be subject to any specific or general statutory exemption or limitation prohibiting levy, execution, assignment, or attachment process or limiting the amount subject to assignment levied against the income of the obligor employee except as provided by federal law.

(h) The family court is authorized and directed to promulgate rules, regulations, and forms reasonably calculated to apprise the obligor of exemptions available to him or her under the law with respect to a family court wage withholding and the procedure for asserting these exemptions.

(i) A wage withholding agent may deduct two dollars ($2.00) from the obligor's remaining income for each payment made pursuant to a wage withholding under this section to cover the wage withholding agent's expenses involved in the wage withholdings.

(j) The obligor shall pay all costs involved in the wage withholdings.

(k) The justices or magistrate(s) of the family court shall enter, when appropriate, an order for payment of reasonable counsel fees for the prosecution of the wage withholdings.

(l) Any judgment or order of support issuing from a court of competent jurisdiction of any state shall have the same force and effect as if the judgment or order issued from the Rhode Island family court.

(m) For purposes of this section and §§ 15-5-25 and 15-5-26, the following definitions apply:

(1) "Income" includes amounts paid or payable to an obligor as:

(i) Compensation paid or payable for personal services whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, bonus, or otherwise, whether taxable or not taxable, and specifically including periodic payments pursuant to pension or retirement programs or insurance policies of any type; and

(ii) Benefit payments or other similar compensation paid or payable to the obligor by or through a department, agency, or political subdivision of the state or federal government, or by an insurance company, including unemployment compensation benefits, workers' compensation benefits, and temporary disability benefits, except where garnishment or attachment of such benefit payments is prohibited by federal law.

(2) "Wage withholding agent" means any person, firm, partnership, corporation, association, trust, federal or state agency, department, or political subdivision, paying or obligated to pay income, as defined in this subsection, to an obligor of court ordered child support.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1980, ch. 304, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 421, § 1; P.L. 1984, ch. 199, § 2; P.L. 1985, ch. 419, § 1; P.L. 1990, ch. 478, § 3; P.L. 1997, ch. 170, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 442, § 8; P.L. 2001, ch. 155, § 1.)