TN 6 (08-09)

PR 04015.054 West Virginia

A. PR 09-152 Is a signature needed on a West Virginia Income Withholding for Support form?

DATE: August 7, 2009

1. SYLLABUS

SSA will honor West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement Income Withholding for Support notices as valid and enforceable even when they do not include a signature. It should be noted that the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement Income Withholding for Support notice is a form generated and sent by the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement for the purpose of simply providing notice to the obligor’s employer and is not an Income Withholding Order issued by a court. Once the court issues the child support award, the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement has the authority, by statute, to enforce the withholding provision without any further judicial action. The Bureau for Child Support Enforcement need only issue a notice to the employer for that employer to begin withholding.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED AND BRIEF ANSWER

Question:

Does West Virginia law require a signature on an Income Withholding for Support form?

Answer:

No. The section of the West Virginia Code that states what content must be included in a notice to the obligor’s source of income does not include a signature requirement, and in the absence of an explicit requirement a signature does not need to be provided.

BACKGROUND

The Charleston West Virginia Field Office received an Income Withholding for Support form for one of its employees who is not complying with his child support obligations. This document notifies the Field Office of its obligation to withhold the portion of the employee’s wages necessary for the child support payment and to send the withheld income to the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement. The second page of the form contains the following language: “Signature (if required by State or Tribal law),” which is followed by a blank line on which the issuing official can sign his or her name. The form received by the Charleston Field Office did not include a signature and did not indicate whether a signature was required under West Virginia law.

DISCUSSION

First, it is important to note that the document in question is not actually an Income Withholding Order issued by a court; it is a form generated and sent by the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement for the purpose of simply providing notice to the obligor’s employer. W. Va. Code §§ 48-14-401, 48-14-402, 48-14-404. Therefore, it does not require the signature of a judge. W. Va. Code §§ 48-14-404. It does, however, have the same binding legal effect as a court order, W. Va. Code § 48-14-402, and therefore it is necessary to examine the relevant law in West Virginia to determine if the signature of any issuing official is required.

West Virginia law on support orders for withholding income for the payment of child support is governed by Part 4 (Withholding From Income of Amounts Payable As Support) of Article 14 (Remedies For The Enforcement of Support Obligations) of Chapter 48 (Domestic Relations) of the West Virginia Code. Under West Virginia law, every child support award issued by a court must include, or be deemed to include, language requiring automatic income withholding. W. Va. Code §§ 48-14-401, 48-14-402. Thus, there is no separate income withholding order from the judge. Instead, once the court issues the child support award, the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement has the authority, by statute, to enforce the withholding provision without any further judicial action. W. Va. Code § 48-14-404. The Bureau for Child Support Enforcement need only issue a notice – the document at issue here – to the employer for that employer to begin withholding. W. Va. Code §§ 48-14-406, 48-14-407. West Virginia law imposes ten specifically enumerated requirements for the content of that notice, such as the amount to be withheld, that the employer must remit the withheld income to the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, that the employer may deduct a fee, etc. W. Va. Code § 48-14-407. Significantly, a signature from the official at the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement is not one of the specifically enumerated requirements. Id.

In addition, Oregon uses an “Income Withholding For Support” form that is nearly identical to the one used by West Virginia. One crucial difference between the West Virginia and Oregon forms, however, occurs on page 2 on the Oregon form. After the portion of the form that asks for a “Signature (if required by State or Tribal law),” it states “Signature not required by Oregon law (ORS 25.399).” O.R.S. § 25.399 lists the contents that are required in a notice to withh