TN 33 (11-12)
GN 02410.210 Processing Paper Garnishment Orders in the Field Office or Processing Center
A. Processing a garnishment order
Initial input of garnishment orders is primarily the job of the field office (FO). Processing Centers (PC) work garnishment orders served directly to them and process Court Ordered Garnishment System (COGS) alerts and exceptions.
When you receive a paper garnishment order for a beneficiary who does not live within your service area, do not forward it. You must process the misdirected order through COGS.
1. Reviewing the garnishment order
For a garnishment order that is more than a year old, contact the issuing State to verify that the order is currently in effect before taking action. Input of a withholding order older than one year will result in a COGS alert. See SM 00832.900, List of Processing Center Action Control System (PCACS) Alert Codes and How to Process.
Verify the correct case number or docket number.
Make sure that the order is to enforce, amend, or terminate child support, alimony, or court ordered victims restitution.
If the intent of the order is not clear, contact the garnisher, the garnisher’s representative or the issuing court to get a certified copy of the order for child support, alimony, or court ordered victim restitution.
If the garnishment order is not for child support, alimony, or court ordered victim restitution, return the order to the court using the notice in NL 00703.728.
NOTE: For processing instructions on Court Ordered Victim Restitution garnishment orders, see GN 02410.223. For processing instructions on Electronic Income Withholding Orders (eIWO), see GN 02410.224.
Make sure that the order meets the laws of the issuing State. The garnishment order must be valid according to the law of the State issuing the order. To find State requirements, develop through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) contacts at the Office of Child Support Enforcement State Income Withholding Contacts and Program Information site.
Base garnishment withholding on the State law where the garnished beneficiary lives.
Garnishment orders for child support are for monetary support, health care, arrearages or reimbursement, and may include other related costs and fees, interest and penalties, income withholding, attorney's fees, and other relief.
Garnishment orders for alimony can include separate maintenance, alimony while the litigation is pending, maintenance, spousal support, attorney's fees, interest, and court costs.
An income withholding order (IWO) for garnishment is signed only if an individual State or tribal law requires a signature. Most states have eliminated the signature requirement from their State statutes, although the IWO form includes a signature line for those states that still require it. To find State requirements, develop through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) contacts at the Office of Child Support Enforcement State Income Withholding Contacts and Program Information site.
Note: We will not change current garnishment to withhold requested fees in response to changes in State law (e.g. Maine’s Notice to Employers) without a new or amended order. If the State in question wants SSA to collect an additional fee from a child support obligor, the State must provide SSA with a new or amended withholding order, specifying the fee amount to withhold, for each individual from whom the State wants SSA to collect a fee.
If there is any question about the garnishment order meeting State law, send the question to the regional office (RO). The RO sends the question to the Regional Chief Counsel (RCC) for guidance. The RCC will tell you what action to take on the garnishment order.
When you send a question to the RO, input COGS to withhold benefits, but code the payover field as “N” pending receipt of the reply. See SM 00832.250, COGS Processing of the Garnishment Payment Process (OGPP) Screen.
If the RCC reply states the garnishment order is proper, the field office will send a Modernized Development Worksheet (MDW) to the appropriate PC to change the payover to “Y”, to release any withheld garnishment payments to the garnisher as directed in the order. See SM 00832.340, COGS Processing of the Manual Adjustment (OGMA) Screen.
If the RCC reply states the garnishment order is not proper, take action to repay the withheld amount. See SM 00832.340, COGS Processing of the Manual Adjustment (OGMA) Screen. Return the order to the court or SDU using the notice in NL 00703.728.
NOTE: Connecticut processes Rhode Island garnishment orders. The Connecticut SDU vendor processes payments for both the Connecticut SDU and the Rhode Island SDU; however, the addresses and bank accounts are different. When you receive a Rhode Island garnishment order, take note that the payment address will correctly be entered as a Connecticut address.
2. Identifying the garnished beneficiary
To avoid an incorrect garnishment, you must make a careful review of the order to take action against the correct beneficiary’s benefits.
Make sure that the garnishment order includes the name of the garnished title II beneficiary. In cases where beneficiaries with the same name are involved (i.e., Jr., Sr.), make sure that you are garnishing the correct person.
Establish the garnishment order on the correct claim account number (CAN), beneficiary’s own account number (BOAN), and beneficiary identification code (BIC).
If the order does not provide enough information (e.g., full name and SSN) to identify the garnished person or you cannot find the SSN using the ALPHIDENT, return the order to the court or the SDU using the notice in NL 00703.728, using paragraph 3728B.
3. Determining the payment status
Use the Master Benefit Record (MBR) to check the payment status of the garnished beneficiary.
If there is an MBR for the beneficiary in any Ledger Account File (LAF) status (current, terminated, deferred, suspense, etc.) or if a Modernized Claims System (MCS) claim or an appeal is pending, process the order in COGS.
When a beneficiary with an active garnishment in COGS changes to any non-payment LAF (deferral, suspense, or termination), do not terminate garnishment on COGS without a garnishment termination order from the court or the SDU. COGS will control all pending garnishment orders when the beneficiary returns to current pay.
If there is no MBR present for the beneficiary and there is no MCS claim or appeal pending, do not input to COGS. Return the order using the notice in NL 00703.724.
If the person receiving the garnished benefits (the garnisher) dies, we continue withholding in accordance with the latest garnishment order. For instructions on when the garnisher dies, see GN 02410.225 3.c. and for instructions on when the debtor dies, see GN 02410.225 3.a.
NOTE: Establishing a garnishment withholding cannot cause an overpayment to the garnished beneficiary. Only withhold garnishment from a current prior month accrual (PMA) or current month accrual (CMA) payment. This includes garnishment of title II lump sum death payments, title II misused benefits, and title II conserved benefits. Do not garnish excess Supplemental Medical Insurance (SMI) premiums or Medicare benefits. Do not apply garnishment retroactively to benefits.
4. Notification of garnishment
You must send notification within 15 days of receipt of the order. If you input the garnishment to COGS within 15 days of receipt of the order, COGS issues the appropriate notices.
If there is a delay in working the garnishment order or if the garnishment order concerns a LAF E case (Railroad Board certification), send the manual notice in NL 00703.710 or NL 00703.711 to the issuing entity.
The notice address must be different from the payment address in COGS when the payment is to an individual, i.e., LEGEND 1 on the Notice Address (OGNA) screen is to an individual (MSOM SPECPAYSYS 003.007). For example, you must issue garnishment payments for alimony to the ex-spouse or an attorney’s address.
Never use the ex-spouse or attorney’s address as the notice address in COGS. The notice address in COGS must be to the court or SDU that issued the order. If you use the ex-spouse or the attorney’s address as the notice address in COGS instead of the address for the court or SDU, COGS will generate a notice to the garnished beneficiary showing the ex-spouse or the attorney’s address. This is a disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) and can create a dangerous situation by providing the garnished beneficiary with their ex-spouse’s address.
5. Faxing the order
After you complete the COGS input, fax the order into the Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRED). See GN 00301.310, The Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRed) Application – Overview. Fax each order separately and use the payment SSN on auxiliary or survivor cases, not the BOAN. Once you fax the garnishment order, review it for accuracy and content using the Claims File Records Management System (CFRMS), see CFRMS Production. After you verify that you have a good image, destroy the original document.
Do not send the original garnishment order to the PC.
Do not include MBR, Payment History Update System (PHUS), or other queries with your fax.
See NDRED for the fax cover sheet.
B. Responding to garnishment inquiries
Beneficiaries may contact SSA for information regarding garnishment cases.
For general inquiries by the garnished beneficiary to verify a garnishment order (e.g., the amount of withholding, the effective date), FO or PC technicians and National 800 Number Network (N8NN) agents can answer questions by accessing CFRMS. Technicians can print or access the garnishment documents for review in CFRMS Production.
For inquiries questioning a garnishment order, (i.e., the garnished person denies knowledge of a garnishment order), refer those questions to the issuing court or SDU.
Refer any inquiries involving access to personally identifiable information (PII) to the issuing court or SDU.
C. Third-party garnishment orders
When you receive a third-party garnishment order (i.e., from other than a court or SDU), you must review the underlying order that authorizes the garnishment. See GN 02410.200B, GN 02410.200C, GN 02410.205B.2., and GN 02410.210A.
An example of a third-party order is one issued by an agency that specializes in obtaining garnishment payments for its clients.
If you do not receive the document authorizing the garnishment, you must:
Ask the third party to supply the underlying garnishment order within 45 days.
Explain that we will start withholding, but we will not payover any money to the agency or the garnisher until we have verified that there is a valid garnishment order.
Explain that if we do not receive the underlying garnishment order within 45 days, we will stop withholding and repay the withheld money to our beneficiary.
If a third party order is more than a year old, make sure that it is still in effect. If it is still in effect, but the third party is the receiver, notify the third party that we will honor the original order, but we cannot payover to them. If the third-party order is not in effect, notify the third party that we cannot garnish benefits based on the order that they have sent.
D. Processing North Dakota Child Support Enforcement Agency's Child Support Deduction Order
North Dakota's Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSE) issues two types of Child Support Orders—the Income Withholding Order (IWO) and the Child Support Deduction Order.
1. Income Withholding Order (IWO)
Income withholding orders withhold a specified amount from the beneficiary's monthly Social Security benefit payment. The address to send these EFT payments is in COGS under ND 000001: ND SDU
P.O. Box 7280
Bismarck ND 58507-7280
Enter the remittance number located on the second page of the North Dakota IWO as the COGS CASE NO.
Enter the case identifier located on the first page of the IWO to COGS as the OBLIGOR ID for Social Security to track separate orders.
Use a lead zero when entering the remittance number as the COGS CASE NO if a second case has the same remittance number.
Use two lead zeros when entering the remittance number as the COGS CASE NO if a third case has the same remittance number.
2. Child support deduction order
A child support deduction order is issued to SSA when the CSE is aware that the number holder (NH) is due a lump sum payment and a portion of, or the entire PMA payment should be withheld. North Dakota law requires that we hold amounts seized by a Child Support Deduction Order for 30 days before payment by the Child Enforcement Agency. This provides the noncustodial parent the chance to contest the seizure.
Establish Child Support Deduction Orders separately from the normal IWO in COGS.
North Dakota CSE revises the Child Support Deduction Order to SSA to add information to the top of the form as follows: Lump Sum – Special Order – Payment to go to the Special Account PO Box 7425 in the form of a paper check.
Enter Deduction Order Remittance Number (“DO“) plus the noncustodial parent’s remittance identifier (e.g., DO1234), as the case number.
Send these paper check payments to the following address, located in COGS under ND 000002 , see SM 00832.200, Processing of the Garnishment System Menu (OGSM), Function 5=QUERY PAYMENT/NOTICE ADDRESS INFORMATION): ND SDU-Special Account
P.O. Box 7425
Bismarck ND 58507-7425
NOTE: Because North Dakota is an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) State, manually type this payment address in COGS. Do not select the 000002 address for payment. For instructions on EFT State processing, see GN 02410.210G.
The payment address is included on each IWO and Deduction Order issued by the North Dakota SDU.
E. Processing Virginia garnishment orders
Garnishment withholding continues (1) until the “total balance due” on the garnishment order is paid, (2) until the court modifies the order or, (3) if there is an arrearage, until the amount in arrears is paid in full. See Virginia Code Sections 8.01-512.3 and 20-78.1. For instructions on terminating a garnishment case, see SM 00832.440.
NOTE: In the unusual event that the agency chooses to appear in a Virginia court to argue that it cannot comply with the garnishment order, and the court enters a judgment in the agency’s favor, the agency stops garnishment withholding as of the date the agency appears in court. See Virginia Code Section 8.01-512.3.
If there is any question about a garnishment order under Virginia statute, send the question to the RO, per GN 02410.210A.1.e. The RO will send the question to the RCC for guidance. The RCC will tell you what action to take on the garnishment order.
F. Processing foreign garnishment orders
We will make a determination on all garnishment orders served on SSA by foreign courts. Garnishment orders issued by foreign courts do not constitute legal process under the Act since the U.S. has not entered into any agreement with a foreign country requiring the U.S. to honor that country's legal process. Because such agreements could be made at some future date, send a copy of all foreign court orders to: OISP, OEPIP, SPIT
6401 Security Blvd.
West High Rise, Room 4430
Baltimore, MD 21235
G. COGS processing instructions for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) states
1. Payment address and bank data
Most States have converted to EFT. Only one standard payment address displays on the Payment/Notice Address Lookup screen (OGPN). Select Code 000001 for all payments sent to the SDU. This propagates the necessary information into the payment address field and the bank data field.
NOTE: If you manually type in the address of the SDU, a paper check issues to the address input. If you manually type in both the address and the bank data, the payment goes to the bank in the wrong format. The State will not have enough information to post the payment correctly. See the note at GN 02410.210A.1.f. concerning Rhode Island payment address coding.
2. FIPS codes
Some EFT States require a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code. The FIPS code refers to the assigned code of the Child Support enforcement entity receiving the Child Support payments. If the FIPS code is the same for the entire State, COGS propagates the FIPS code when the bank data propagates.
NOTE: Florida and Michigan have multiple FIPS codes. You must manually enter a FIPS code whenever the standard address is Florida (FL) or Michigan (MI) and displays no FIPS code on the Payment Address (OGPA) screen.
See the following lists for the Florida and the Michigan FIPS codes:
Florida FIPS Codes by County
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Michigan FIPS Codes by County
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