You have asked for clarification of the requirements in Nevada and Hawaii for proper
service of support enforcement orders.
In Hawaii, service on the Social Security Administration (SSA) of a support order
may be made by regular mail, by personal delivery, or by transmission through electronic
means. In Nevada, a support notice may be served by first-class mail, by electronic
means, or by certified mail, return receipt requested. As noted in a prior opinion,
the critical element for all types of service is that the person to whom support is
owed (or the local child support agency) must serve SSA with the order and important
documents and form which explain the rights of the person who owes the support
A. Federal law and Social Security policy
Under the Social Security Act, SSA is subject to the same requirements concerning
child and spousal support orders as would apply if it were a private person/employer.
42 U.S.C. § 659(b).
An employer (here, SSA) who honors a garnishment order which is “regular on its face,”
issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, who is properly served, and who gives
notice to the employee so that the employee may timely challenge the garnishment has
no further duty to the employee. 42 U.S.C. § 659(f); Millard
v. United States, 916 F.2d 1, 6 (Fed. Cir. 1990).
Specifically, the implementing federal regulations provide that “legal process” must
be served according to state procedures. 5 C.F.R. § 581.202(b) (2006). The government
entity shall make every reasonable effort to facilitate proper service on its designated
agent. Id. For the garnishment of benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, SSA's
designated agent for service is the office manager at any Social Security District
or Branch Office. 5 C.F.R. Pt. 581, App. A. According to SSA's Program Operations
Manual System (POMS), service may be made on the manager (or his/her designated representative)
of any Social Security Field Office (FO) or on any Program Center. POMS GN 02410.205.
Valid service is not accomplished until the legal process is received in the office
of the designated agent. 5 C.F.R. § 581.202(b). The government will not be liable
for any costs or damages resulting from an agency's failure to timely serve process
or to correct faulty service of process. 5 C.F.R. § 581.202(b).
POMS also provides that a garnishment order must be served on SSA in accordance with
the state law where the order was issued. POMS GN 02410.205. If service is not proper, SSA is to return the order of garnishment to the issuing
state court. POMS NL 00703.726.
B. Hawaii law
In Hawaii, the Family Code provides that an enforcing agency may serve an income withholding
order or notice to withhold child support on SSA by “regular mail, by personal delivery,
or by transmission though electronic means.” Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 576D-14 and 576E-16(b)
(2006). The Family Code also provides that service on SSA of an assignment by court
order for child or spousal support may be made “by regular mail, by personal delivery,
or by transmission through electronic means.” Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 572-52. Thus,
in addition to the traditional methods of service, service by electronic means, such
as a fax or electronic mail (e-mail), is acceptable in Hawaii.
C. Nevada law
In Nevada, the “enforcing authority” will serve “by first-class mail, a notice to
withhold income to an obligor's employer.” Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 31A.070(1) (2006).
This notice “may be issued electronically.” Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 31A.070(3). Thus,
Nevada also accepts service by electronic means, such as a fax or e-mail.
Where the employer does not begin to withhold income, the enforcing agency will send
another notice “by certified mail, return receipt requested.” Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann.
§ 31A.070(2). Moreover, as to an assignment order, service “is binding upon any existing
or future employer” who is served by “certified mail, return receipt requested.” Nev.
Rev. Stat. Ann. § 31A.280(1).