This is a reprint of an article I wrote about a year ago. All my old posts can be viewed at NH Family Law Reform.
Returning to the previous discussion of the basic problems with current child support laws, let’s take a look at wage garnishment, or “assignment”. This is a much broader issue than just attaching a weekly paycheck. This also includes seizure of bank account, retirement and other liquid assets. It means mandatory confiscation of tax refunds. It means states refusing to give you a drivers license if you owe support. It even means suspending your right to travel abroad if you are behind in child support.
Obviously, many people think this is fair and just; after all if one is not supporting their children, should not the State be allowed to take harsh measures? My argument against this is that “where does it stop?” Currently, these harsh penalties are not applied when one is behind in in alimony payments; they are not imposed for any type of civil debt (mortgage, etc.); they are not even imposed to this extent when taxes are owed.
But the other issue goes back to the fundamental problem of “guilty until proven innocent”. Wage assignment is now mandatory in NH, unless extenuating circumstance can be shown that it should not be assessed. Why? If I have always voluntarily paid my support in full and on-time, why should the State feel obliged to garnish my check? It is not like income taxes, where I will get refund if my pay is over-witheld. Any money paid in support is forfeit, unless one spends a huge amount of money to go to Court and try and prove that they have overpaid.
Good Luck with that one. Besides, the most you could recover is what you have overpaid since the date of service of such an order. Any amount prior to that is most definitely forfeit.
Naturally, the answer is simple: follow the money. Since the State gets a kickback from Federal Title IV-D funds for every dollar of support they collect, the State has a vested interest in making sure Fathers pay. And what better way then taking their money before they see it?
Nevertheless, wage assignment by the State without cause is an unfair violation of of our Constitutional right and primary legal precedent of innocent until proved guilty. Courts should only be allowed to put in place wage assignment when the individual has proven that they will not pay their support otherwise.