A judgment last week by a Cook County judge may be the largest child support-related decision in the history of Illinois. Judge Bonita Coleman issued a ruling against a Herscher car dealership for intentionally failing to withhold wages from an employee who had been ordered to make child support payments. The dealership must now pay $2.3 million in penalties, an amount that nearly doubles the previous high of $1.2 million upheld in 2007 by the Illinois Supreme Court.
In Illinois, along with the rest of the country, the easiest and most common way to make child support payments is through payroll deduction. The paying parent provides a copy of the support requirement to his or her employer, and the employer sends the appropriate amount to the State Disbursement Unit every month. The supporting parent, then, does not need to worry about missed payments or mailing a check; the system is virtually automatic.
There is a legal basis for making payroll deduction system work. According to the Illinois Withholding for Support Act, an employer is required to comply with withholding notices for orders of child support and spousal maintenance. If an employer knowingly fails to withhold the amount indicated in the withholding notice, the employer may be liable for penalties of $100 per day. While there is a ceiling of $10,000 in penalties for failing to withhold or pay the state “on one occasion”, each subsequent month can be considered a separate occasion, allowing the amount due to compound.
From $8,000 to $2.3 Million
The case before Judge Coleman began in 2010 when the plaintiff filed for $7,820 in child support payments owed by the dealership where her former husband was employed. Eventually, the dealership did cover the arrearages, but the issue of the company’s knowing failure to pay was not addressed. The dealership made several claims in its defense, including that the missed payments were simple clerical errors and that the plaintiff’s ex-husband was not an employee but an independent contractor. Judge Coleman found otherwise and levied the massive fine against the company. The dealership is expected to appeal the ruling, but, for now, the decision stands.
Need Help Collecting Unpaid Support?
If you should be receiving child support payments and your child’s other parent—or his or her employer—refuses to cooperate, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Enforcement of support orders and withholding notices can be very complex, and handling them yourself is not advisable. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule a free initial consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., today.