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Parents in Massachusetts who fall behind on child support payments could face wage garnishment at some point. Wage garnishment arises from a court order that seizes a portion of wages until debts have been fully paid off. A study that analyzed the anonymous pay data of 12 million workers nationwide in 2016 determined that wage garnishment affected 7 percent of workers. The burden of wage garnishment falls most heavily on men who comprise nearly three-quarters of those who have money taken from their paychecks.

Child support accounts for the overwhelming majority of these wage garnishments. Payroll deductions to cover child support and debts hit people in middle age the most. Workers aged 35 to 54 represent 62 percent of those making these payments.

Levels of wage garnishment vary by industry as well. Roughly 10 percent of employees nationwide in the manufacturing sector have debts reducing their pay. On the regional level, manufacturing plants in the Midwest have the highest number of workers with garnishment. Among men at Midwestern factories, 26 percent of them between the ages of 35 and 55 were coping with payroll deductions for debts. In the service sector, the portion of employees experiencing wage garnishment is lower at 7 percent.

A person falling behind on child support payments might be able to control the situation before wage garnishment becomes necessary. The person could ask for legal advice. An attorney might determine that the person’s income does not justify current child support calculations. An attorney may also petition the court to modify the child support order. Additionally, an attorney might broker an agreement that gives the person a chance to catch up on unpaid child support.