Paying spousal support
Spousal support payments are often taken directly from your paycheck (called an earnings assignment or income withholding). Sometimes, you may need to ask a judge to cancel or change an earnings assignment. For example, if the amount being taken is not correct or back support (past due) has been added and you can't afford to pay the combined amount.
How to pay support
Pay support on time
When a judge orders spousal support, they order a date when payments must start. You must pay beginning on that date. Unpaid support collects interest. The interest rate for unpaid support is 10% per year. It works like interest on a credit card.
Example: Interest and missed support payments
Spouse A owes $100.00 in support each month. They do not pay for 5 months. They owe $500.00 in back support. The interest rate for unpaid support is 10%. By the end of the year, spouse A owes $550.00 in support including interest.
Usually, support is taken directly from your pay (earnings assignment)
An earnings assignment is a court order that tells your employer to take the support payments directly from each paycheck and where to send it. If you also pay child support, it's called an Income Withholding Order.
Once your employer receives the order, they have 10 days to take the money from your next paycheck. If your spouse also has a child support earnings assignment, the employer takes child support out first. Spousal or domestic partner support is taken out after that.
If the order is only to pay spousal support, your employer sends the money directly to your spouse. If the order includes child support, the money gets sent to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU then sends the child and spousal support to your spouse.
How to pay if there's not an earnings assignment
- Check if your order says how you should make payments. For example, the order may say payments can be made by cash or check.
- If you miss payments and you have a regular employer, your spouse can ask the judge to order that payments come directly from your pay by earnings assignment.
If the Local Child support agency (LCSA) is part of your case, they must agree to allow you to not pay support by earnings assignment.
The LCSA is involved in your case if
- You also have a child support order and one of you asked them for help enforcing all support payments (spousal and child support)
- One of you gets public assistance for your children (like CalWORKS).
If the LCSA is involved, the LCSA must agree to support not being taken directly from your pay. If your spouse is not getting public assistance, the LCSA will probably agree to both of you working the payments out between you.
Your court's Self-Help Center can help you with earnings assignments or income withholding orders. If you need help with the forms or can't afford your basic needs and the support payments, talk to staff at your court's Family Law Facilitator or Self-Help Center.