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The Rhode Island Child Support Garnishment System has a Glitch!

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Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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So let's say that you have a choice with your spouse about whether or not your child support is garnished or not.  My suggestion?  Avoid garnishment through your employer if you can.  

Here's the "glitch" that gives you the reason why.  If you get paid weekly and your employer garnishes weekly you may think that you are okay and you're all paid up, right?  

After all, you were told to pay weekly and every week you didn't get that money.  So you should be all set because your employer took the money out and your employer is going to send the money to the State of Rhode Island so that the placement parent gets it to cover your child support for your child(ren), so you're all set right?


Employers have to garnish based upon what the Court Order says but they almost never send the money in to the State of Rhode Island on a weekly basis because of the overhead of bookkeeping costs.  In fact, if you're lucky your employer will send the money in monthly.

So here is what happens when the State of Rhode Island gets your full month of payments for the entire month.  Let's say that your payments are for the month of May so that on May 31st your May garnishments are sent to the court.  The court's computer system normally shows that you are late on your child support by 3 weeks and then you're finally paid up.  No big deal, right?  

Wrong again!  Why?  

Because in the State of Rhode Island's child support computer system you are charged interest on any unpaid child support at 12 percent per annum (i.e. per year) which is calculated on a weekly basis.

So here's what I've seen as an example.  You'll get the idea very quickly.

Let's take Jason's case.

Jason pays child support for his 3 children of $225 per week.  His employer garnishes him on every Friday when he gets paid for that money.  Unfortunately, the employer sends the money in for Jason's payments at the end of the month.  By the time it's received and processed it's not recorded as paid until until the first week of the next month.  So according to the computer then Jason has missed 4 payments and then when the 5th payment is due he pays 4 payments all at once.  So for each of the 4 weeks that the computer says Jason is late, Jason gets charged 1 week of interest.  

One (1) week out of 12% for a whole year is .00232%  So let's work it out for Jason.   Jason's $225 a week x .00232% which is $0.52. For the first week.  No big deal right?  Sure, it doesn't seem like much but that's 52 cents you shouldn't have to pay.  

In the second week, the computer would have showed $450 was late.  So for that week the computer assesses Jason 1 week of interest on that entire amount.  So that is $450 X .00232% in the second week. This time Jason is charged interest in the amount of $1.04.  The third week is also late so that is $675 in total that is late for that week.  The math is the same.  This time the computer charges Jason the amount of $1.56.  The fourth week is also late so that is $900 that is late for that week.  Once again Jason is charged interest in the amount of $2.08.

Now on the fifth week the employer has paid the previous four weeks but guess what?  Due to the processing time the fifth week is likely to be late as well.  This time Jason is charged interest on $225 again at $0.52 because the 5th week is the only one that is late.

Do you see the problem?  

Jason will always be behind until he realizes the problem and corrects it.  The interest will continue and eventually start to grow at an exponential rate until it is literally thousands of dollars and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars if it is not discovered.  

In just that first payment by his employer, Jason owes another $5.20 for the first four (4) garnished payments.  It doesn't seem like much but if the employer has now put Jason behind by a week so he will always be behind and this will keep growing and growing.

That's the problem.  You don't even want to see what he numbers would be if you had your pay garnished like that for 12 or 14 years of a child's life.  We are talking months of ADDITIONAL payments that you could pay because of a flaw in the law and a flaw in the processing through the employer and the computer system.   Everyone has still followed the law but the law has a problem.  It doesn't account for the garnishment time versus when the court system accounts for when it is paid as compared to when the employer sends in the money.

The end result?  Garnishment through employers may seem the easier route, but for the person paying the child support it almost always causes additional interest to be owed with every payment.  

Until it is corrected either in the garnishment law, or the recording system, or the computer program, it will continue to exist.

The conclusion for those paying child support . . . don't ignore "The Glitch!"


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