It is crucial for a songwriter or an individual publisher to maintain all child support obligations, as well as all arrears child support obligations, in order to avoid any encumbrances against their BMI royalties.
Child support is usually a result of a divorce, legal separation, dissolution, annulment, paternity determination, or as a supplement to an existing alimony obligation. Some parents choose to make voluntary agreements related to child support. However, when the parents are no longer together, a court often intervenes to order one parent (“obligor”) to pay the other parent (“obligee”).
It is standard for a court to establish a child-support obligation using a formula that will evaluate and determine a certain percentage of the obligor’s monthly income. Once the obligation has been established, the obligor is expected to make the required support payments until the court formally terminates the obligation.
The duration of support orders vary case by case. Some will cease upon the child reaching majority or graduating from high school, yet some states allow support to extend past the age of majority if the child is enrolled as a full-time college student.
If an obligor becomes delinquent or falls behind on several child support payments, the court will often establish an additional obligation known as an “arrears” child support obligation.
Almost all states have resources to determine from where an obligor gets his money. If a BMI songwriter or a sole publisher fails to pay his or her child support obligations, BMI likely will be served with a Child Support Garnishment Order, which will immediately compel BMI to divert all royalties payable to the obligor.
BMI must continue to make payments until receipt of an Order to Terminate, which formally ends the Garnishment Order. BMI cannot adjust the terms of any Order for any reason.
There is no limit as to the number of Child Support Garnishment Orders that can be filed against an Obligor. For example, if you have one child in Texas, a second child in New Jersey, and a third child in Florida, BMI could receive Orders from all three states and would be obligated to pay all Orders simultaneously.
In most cases, only a portion (typically 50%) of your royalties can be taken from you because of Orders. However, if an obligor falls extremely behind on support obligations, some states have created additional enforcement measures, such as New York’s Enforcement Levy for Child Support, which requires BMI to forward 100% of your royalties to the State.
Take it from us: If you owe child support, the government will find out about your BMI royalties and garnish them.
It is in your best interest, as well as in the best interests of your children, to diligently pay your child support and arrears obligation(s) without fail. In that way, you can be assured that those debts will not impact continued receipt of your royalties.
Richard A. Garza, Esq. is BMI’s Senior Director, Legal & Business Affairs, Performing Rights