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
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.
QUESTION PRESENTED AND BRIEF ANSWER
Does West Virginia law require a signature on an Income Withholding for Support form?
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.
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.
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 withhold, and thus serves the same purpose as W. VA. Code §§ 48-14-401, 48-14-401, and 48-14-407. Like the West Virginia statutes, it does not specifically require a signature. Therefore, because the two states are so similar in their procedural requirements for income withholding notices – and because neither explicitly requires a signature – West Virginia’s statutes should be interpreted the same way as Oregon’s, and no signature is necessary.
This interpretation is consistent with policies adopted by other states that use the Income Withholding for Support Form. For example, Illinois’ Withholding Act of 19971 eliminated the requirement that a custodial parent complete a withholding order signed by a judge and allowed income withholding orders “to be served and complied with by employers without any judicial approval.”2 This aids custodial parents by limiting the number of procedural hurdles they need to go through in order to obtain the support money to which they are entitled. West Virginia’s use of the Income Withholding for Support form is a strong indicator that it shares this policy goal with states like Illinois.
Income Withholding for Support notices sent by the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement are valid and enforceable even when they do not include a signature. Therefore, the Charleston WV Field Office should comply with their instructions.
Eric P. K~
Acting Regional Chief Counsel, Region III
Edward C. T~
Assistant Regional Counsel
1 750 ILCS 28/1, et seq.
2 Donald E. Ray, The Illinois Income “Withholding Notice” and S.B. 100, https://www.iicle.com/articles/Article.aspx?ID=44 (last visited July, 30, 2009).