Draft regulations that tell federal agencies and military departments how to handle garnishment for court-ordered alimony and child support have finally gone to the Civil Service Commission for approval.
Although some agencies are now deducting money from the pay and pension checks of employees, military personnel and retirees, most have ducked the garnishment program although the law has been on the books for more than a year.
Once the CSC approves the new guidelines, they will be published in the Federal Register for a 60-day comment period. After that they go into effect so that thousands of ex-wives (and, presumably, some ex-husbands, too) can finally get Uncle Sam to make court-ordered alimony and child-support payments from the checks of spouses who are in government - or retired from it - who haven't met their legal obligations.
Here are the guidelines to agencies and lawyers telling them how to process the alimony and child-support claims. The CSC directive - when it comes out - will follow this basis pattern:
(1) Obtain a writ of garnishment or similar process from a local court of competent jurisdiction. Such process should name the U.S. and the agency that employs the person who owes alimony or child-support payments as the garnishee party.
(2) Make sure that the legal process itself specifies that the obligation being enforced is one of alimony and/or child support. If the legal process does not specify, attach a certified copy of the judgement for unpaid alimony and/or child support which the legal process was brought to enforce.
(3) "Send a certified copy of such legal process to the head of the agency named as garnishee by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested."
(4) "Attach to the legal process such information, if known, as would aid in identifying the obligor, for example his full name, social security number date of birth, civil service claim number, duty station and division of the agency in which he is employed."
Some agencies have done relatively well already in the garnishment program. Defense (both for military personnel and civilian employees and retirees), U.S. Postal Service and the Civil Service Commission itself are examples of agencies that have already processed many claims for court-ordered alimony and child support.
But most federal agencies haven't processed alimony-child support orders, mainly because they were waiting for guidance from the Civil Service Commision. CSC's lawyers, in turn, had to get clearance for the proposed new guidelines and then work up readable and understandable regulations for the CSC commissioners to study.
They will be doing that next week and are expected to approve them without major change. Next step is publication of the proposed regulations in the Federal Register and then they will go into effect sometime after the 60-day period for comment.
The mere fact that the regulations are definitely coming is expected to spur some federal workers, military retirees and active duty personnel to settle alimony and child-support obligations they have been avoiding.
If they don't make relatively fast out-of-court settlements over alimony and child-support payments, many of the individuals will soon be getting notices from their agencies that their pay or retirement checks are being reduced by the amount necessary to satisfy the court-ordered alimony or child-support obligations. The government will take out the necessary money before the employee or retiree gets his or her check.