What is an Income Withholding Order?

September 6, 2022 | By Julie R. Colton

If you are the defendant or payor in a Pennsylvania support case, you will likely receive Income Withhold Orders (“IWO”) throughout the duration of the support obligation. Income withholding is also known as wage attachment. Wage attachment is the standard form of collection used by the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (“PACSES”). Almost every person who pays support pursuant to a Pennsylvania support order is wage attached unless there is a written agreement for other payment arrangements.

When you are the subject of a wage attachment, the court will send an IWO to your employer and you will receive a copy. The order tells the employer how much to withhold from your pay each pay period. It will break the monthly obligation down into monthly, semi-monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly pay amounts. The Employer should then withhold the corresponding amount of each of the payor’s paychecks. The amount withheld is then sent by the employer directly to PACSES who distributes it to the recipient.

IWO are sent out each time the support amount changes. The change can be because of a modification of the order. The change can also be because arrears have been paid off or arrears have accumulated. Arrears are back due support. Arrears accumulate for two reasons. They can accumulate in the period between when a support request is made and a new order is entered, or they can accumulate when a payor does pay the obligation in full each month. Every support order has a built-in arrears payment that is administratively added or subtracted from the obligation as the arrears are incurred or paid off. The change of adding the arrears payment is administrative.

If you are paid every other week, you may see more frequent IWO. Bi-weekly payors pay slightly less per month in 10 months a year and more than the obligation in two months a year. This is because Bi-weekly payors receive 26 pays. Most bi-weekly payors are familiar with the two months a year that they get three paychecks instead of two. In the months you pay less, you may accumulate arrears; in the months that you pay three times, you usually catch up on the arrears.

IWO may also be sent out when the payor changes employers or moves to benefits such as Worker’s Compensation or Unemployment Compensation.

If you are wage attached, you should double check that your employer is withholding the correct amount. Compare the withholding with the amounts on the IWO. If you think your employer is withhold too much, contact your attorney. If you have multiple employers, and they are all withholding income, you might need to talk to your attorney about terminating some of the wage attachments. Then your income will only be withheld from your main source of income, instead of from all sources of income.

If your employer is not withholding enough, then you need to pay additional funds directly to PACSES. Your attorney can provide you with payment instructions and payment coupons. There is a maximum percentage of your income that can be wage attached. So, if your order is based on an earning capacity or multiple jobs, then one wage attachment may not be able to fulfill your entire obligation.

Oddly, your attorney does not receive copies of these IWOs from the court. If you have questions about an IWO that you received, you should send a copy of the order to your lawyer along with the questions. Your attorney can also assist you in addressing any wage attachment issues that may arise.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.

About the Authors

Julie Colton - Pittsburgh Family Law Mediation

Julie R. Colton


Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney   Julie focuses her practice on family law matters including divorce, child custody, support, asset division, prenuptial agreements, and international custody. Julie also has experience in family law...

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