Earnings Assignments in California and When They Are Used

The decision to file for divorce is rarely an easy one. However, once your judge signs the final divorce decree, the most difficult aspects of the divorce process should be behind you. In most cases, the judge in charge of a divorce case will file an earnings assignment order to make sure that spousal support payments are made on time. In this guide, we take a closer look at earnings assignments and when they are used.

What is an earnings assignment in California?

An earnings assignment refers to income withheld by an employer to pay spousal support the employee owes. If you or your ex-spouse owe spousal support, a California judge will likely make an earnings assignment order. The order takes effect once a Proof of Service form has been filed.

This form must be served to your ex-spouse’s employer. The employer will then understand that they must withhold a certain amount of your pay for spousal support. If you are the support recipient, bear in mind that you or your lawyer must fill out the earnings assignment order form. (Find it here.)

As long as you correctly and accurately complete the form, you can expect the order to be verified in less than two weeks.

How is earnings assignment money typically withheld and received?

The process of earnings assignment withholding and receipt is fairly straightforward. Once an ex-spouse’s employer receives the order, they have 10 days to begin deducting the necessary funds. This money will be taken directly from the ex’s earnings. The money will be allocated directly to spousal support payments. Payments may be made monthly or quarterly, depending on the guidelines of the divorce decree.


Common questions about spousal support

Can I choose to receive payments directly from my spouse instead?

If your ex-spouse is employed, their employer will send spousal support payments to you once enough money is collected. However, this isn’t possible if your ex-spouse works contract jobs or is self-employed. If you find yourself in this situation, your ex-spouse will likely be ordered by the judge to pay you directly.

Can I choose to make payments directly to my spouse instead of having money withheld?

In the event you are tasked with paying spousal support to your ex-spouse, you can ask your ex to agree to receive payments directly from you. With this agreement, you can bypass the need for an earnings assignment. Note, however, that your ex-spouse could still obtain an earnings assignment order. They could request the order be put on hold “just in case.” In this scenario, the order would only go into effect if you start missing payments.

What can I do if my ex isn’t paying spousal support in California?

As touched upon previously, you can request an earnings assignment order from the court if your ex-spouse fails to pay the spousal support they owe. Examine and follow the steps below:

  • Fill out all required forms.
  • Make copies of these forms.
  • Collect signed forms from the judge.
  • File the signed forms, if necessary.
  • Send the earnings assignment order directly to your ex-spouse’s employer.
  • Send the order to your ex-spouse.
  • Fill out and file the Proof of Service document.

Nearly every judge files an earning assignment order when a divorce decree is made. This simplifies the process of obtaining spousal support in California. While it’s possible to draw up an agreement for your ex to send payments directly to you, an earnings assignment order simplifies and automates the process.

If you need help understanding the earnings assignment form and what it entails, speak with your Hello Divorce account coordinator (if you are a paid member), or contact Hello Divorce for a free 15-minute call to learn about options and next steps.

Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.