PR 04505.021 Louisiana
A. PR 04-097 Louisiana Garnishment Order - Reply
DATE: February 27, 2004
In this matter, the Mid-America Program Center in Kansas City received a garnishment order from the New Orleans District Attorney's Office, 98th Judicial District Circuit, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Order states that it is based upon a child support order from Louisiana and directed the Social Security Administration (SSA) to garnish the benefits of Ronald P. W~, Social Security Number ~. The Order does not provide an exact monetary amount to be deducted per month, only reflecting a current monthly amount and accrual amount of "$0.00" to be deducted. Additionally, the Order does not provide the total amount of support owed by Mr. W~. Instead, the Order states that the SSA should withhold fifty percent of Mr. W~' aggregate disposable earnings.1 We have been asked to advise your office on whether this Order is valid and how the SSA should interpret the zero amounts.
The Social Security Act states that moneys, due from a United States government agency to an individual, shall be subject, in a manner as if the United States government agency were a private person, to state laws enacted to enforce the legal obligation of an individual to provide child support. 42 U.S.C. § 659(a). Thus, Mr. W~' benefits are subject to Louisiana laws governing child support garnishment orders.
According to Louisiana law, the general exemptions from seizure are as follows:
The following income or property of a debtor is exempt from seizure under any writ, mandate, or process whatsoever: Seventy-five percent of his disposable earnings for any week. . . . [h]owever, the exemption from disposable earnings for the payment of a current or past due support obligation, or both, for a child or children is fifty percent of disposable earnings, and the exemption from seizure of the disposable earnings for the payment of a current or past due support obligation, or both, for a spouse or former spouse is sixty percent of the disposable earnings. For purposes of this Subsection, if the Department of Social Services is providing support enforcement services to the spouse and a judgment or order for support includes an obligation for both a child or children and a spouse or former spouse, or in any case wherein the judgment or order does not clearly indicate which amount is attributable to support of the child or children and which amount is attributable to support of the spouse or former spouse, the support obligation shall be treated as if it is exclusively for the support of a child or children.
LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 3881A(1)(a) (2004) (emphasis added); see also Blanchard v. Blanchard, 466 So.2d 569, 571-572 (5th Cir. 1985)(Statute provides that in cases of child support obligations, up to fifty percent of a debtor's disposable earnings may be seized to satisfy a past due or current support obligation). Thus, Louisiana law provides that up to fifty percent of a debtor's disposable earnings may be garnished for past due or current child support obligations.
However, the Programs Operation Manual System (POMS) GN 02410.255(2), State Garnishment Laws, Louisiana, provides:
In both garnishment and income assignment, 75% of disposable earnings is exempt from seizure; however, in any case, the exemption shall not be less than an amount in disposable earnings which is equal to 30 times the Federal hourly wage in effect at the time the earnings are payable. However, if the Department of Health and Human Resources is providing support enforcement services to the spouse, only 50% of disposable earnings is exempt from seizure.
It appears that POMS does not correctly reflect current Louisiana law. Thus, Mr. W~' benefits are subject to Louisiana laws governing child support garnishment and are subject to the Court's child support order. As such, fifty percent of Mr. W~' aggregate disposable earnings are subject to garnishment. I have attached a copy of the Louisiana Statute, section 3881, for your review.
Additionally, I have contacted the New Orleans District Attorney's Office, 98th Judicial District Circuit, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and spoke with Marcy R~, who confirmed that Mr. W~ owed past child support in the amount of $6,199.00.
Accordingly, we see no legal objection to either the substance or form of this Order, and it is our opinion that your office may comply with this Order.
Very Truly Yours,
Tina M. W~
Regional Chief Counsel
Carolyn A. E~
Assistant Regional Counsel
1 "Disposable earnings" means the part of the earnings of any individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amounts required by law to be withheld and which amounts are reasonable and are being deducted in the usual course of business at the time the garnishment is served upon the employer for the purpose of providing benefits for retirement, medical insurance coverage, life insurance coverage and which amounts are legally due or owed to the employer in the usual course of business at the time the garnishment is served. LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 3881A(1)(b) (2004).