Is A Wage Assignment Always Mandatory For Child Support?

As the recent decision in State ex rel. Rickard v. Holt explains, the answer is “no.”

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-501(a)(1) provides, in pertinent part:

For any order of child support issued, modified, or enforced on or after July 1, 1994, the court shall order an immediate assignment of the obligor’s income, including, but not necessarily limited to: wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, workers’ compensation, disability, payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program, profit sharing, interest, annuities, and other income due or to become due to the obligor. The order of assignment shall issue regardless of whether support payments are in arrears on the effective date of the order.

The statute, however, provides two exceptions to the general rule requiring income assignment:

(2) Income assignment under this subsection (a) shall not be required:

(A) If, in cases involving the modification of support orders, upon proof by one party, there is a written finding of fact in the order of the court that there is good cause not to require immediate income assignment and the proof shows that the obligor has made timely payment of previously ordered support. “Good cause” shall only be established upon proof that the immediate income assignment would not be in the best interests of the child. The court shall, in its order, state specifically why such assignment will not be in the child’s best interests; or

(B) If there is a written agreement by both parties that provides for alternative arrangements. Such agreement must be reviewed by the court and entered in the record.

Because of Father’s history of timely payments and evidence that his employer would take a “dim view” and possible adverse employment action against someone in his position being subject to a court-ordered wage assignment (Father is a commercial airline pilot), the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s finding that “good cause” existed to exempt Father from the otherwise mandatory wage assignment.

State ex rel. Rickard v. Holt (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 30, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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