Uncle Sam, the nation's largest civilian employer, will begin making voluntary payroll deductions for alimony and child support beginning Monday.

New regulations allow feds, for the first time, to have those payments deducted from their biweekly checks the same as taxes, union dues and donations to charity.

Effective Feb. 9, federal workers can go to their personnel office and request alimony or child support paycheck deductions. Checks will be sent directly to the ex-spouse, an attorney or a bank designated to receive the alimony or child support payments.

In addition to the voluntary withholding program, the government has issued final regulations that require federal agencies, the U.S. Postal Service and the military to deduct court-ordered alimony and child support payments from checks of workers or retirees who have refused to make them. Guidelines for both programs come from the Office of Personnel Management.

Garnishment of federal checks -- military, civilian or retirement -- has been allowed for some time. Defense and the U.S. Postal Service are deeply into the program, but some other agencies have dragged their feet pending detailed guidelines from the Opm. In general the guidelines say that the garnishment orders -- for alimony and child support and not for other kinds of debts -- must be based on a court order. Individuals wishing to attach part of a federal or military pay or pension check should contact the general counsel or legal office of the agency or military service that employs their former spouse, or the agency of department from which the individual has retired.

Voluntary withholding of alimony and child support payments, which must be requested by the employe, will be handled through personnel and payroll offices of individual agencies. The voluntary program is spelled out in Federal Personnel Manual Bulletin No. 550-40.