Title 5

SECTION 582.305

582.305 Honoring legal process.

§ 582.305 Honoring legal process.

(a) The agency shall comply with legal process, except where the process cannot be complied with because:

(1) It is not regular on its face.

(2) The legal process would require the withholding of funds not deemed pay as described in § 582.102(a)(5).

(3) It does not comply with section 5520a of title 5 of the United States Code or with the mandatory provisions of this part; or

(4) An order of a court of competent jurisdiction enjoining or suspending the operation of the legal process has been served on the agency.

(b) While an agency will not comply with legal process which, on its face, indicates that it has expired or is otherwise no longer valid, legal process will be deemed valid notwithstanding the fact that the underlying debt and/or the underlying judgment arose prior to the effective date of section 5520a of title 5 of the United States Code.

(c)(1) The filing of an appeal by an employee-obligor will not generally delay the processing of a garnishment action. If the employee-obligor establishes to the satisfaction of the employee-obligor's agency that the law of the jurisdiction which issued the legal process provides that the processing of the garnishment action shall be suspended during an appeal, and if the employee-obligor establishes that he or she has filed an appeal, the employing agency shall comply with the applicable law of the jurisdiction and delay or suspend the processing of the garnishment action.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(1) of this section, the employing agency shall not be required to establish an escrow account to comply with the legal process even if the applicable law of the jurisdiction requires private employers to do so.

(d) Under the circumstances set forth in § 582.305 (a) or (b), or where the agency is directed by the Justice Department not to comply with the legal process, the agency shall respond directly to the court, or other authority, setting forth its reasons for non-compliance with the legal process. In addition, the agency shall inform the person who caused the legal process to be served, or the person's representative, that the legal process will not be honored. Thereafter, if litigation is initiated or appears imminent, the agency shall immediately refer the matter to the United States Attorney for the district from which the legal process issued. To ensure uniformity in the executive branch, agencies which have statutory authority to represent themselves in court shall coordinate their representation with the United States Attorney.

(e) In the event that an agency is served with more than one legal process or garnishment order with respect to the same payments due or payable to the same employee, the agency shall satisfy such processes in priority based on the time of service: Provided, That in no event will the total amount garnished for any pay or disbursement cycle exceed the applicable limitation set forth in § 582.402. Provided further, That processes which are not limited in time shall preserve their priority based on time of service until fully satisfied. Generally, a modified order will retain its original priority while a time limited order will lose its priority after it has expired.

(f) Legal process to which an agency is subject under sections 459, 461, and 462 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 659, 661, and 662) for the enforcement of an employee's legal obligation to provide child support or to make alimony payments, including child support or alimony arrearages, shall have priority over any legal process to which an agency is subject under this part. In addition to having priority, compliance with legal process to which an agency is subject under sections 459, 461, and 462 of the Social Security Act may exhaust the moneys available for compliance with legal process under this part. See § 582.402(a).

(g)(1) Neither the United States, and executive agency, nor any disbursing officer shall be liable for any payment made from moneys due from, or payable by, the United States to any individual pursuant to legal process regular on its face, if such payment is made in accordance with this part.

(2) Neither the United States, an executive agency, nor any disbursing officer shall be liable under this part to pay money damages for failure to comply with the legal process.

(h) Agencies affected by legal process served under this part shall not be required to vary their normal pay or disbursement cycles to comply with the legal process. However, legal process, valid at the time of service, which is received too late to be honored during the disbursement cycle in which it is received, shall be honored, to the extent that the legal process may be satisfied, during the next disbursement cycle within the limits set forth in § 582.402. The fact that the legal process may have expired during this period would not relieve the agency of its obligation to honor legal process which was valid at the time of service. If, in the next disbursement cycle, no further payment will be due from the agency to the employee-obligor, the agency shall follow the procedures set forth in § 582.306.

(i) Agencies need not establish escrow accounts in order to comply with legal process. Therefore, even if the amount garnished by an agency in one disbursement cycle is not sufficient to satisfy the entire indebtedness, the agency need not retain those funds until the amount retained would satisfy the entire indebtedness. On the contrary, agencies will, in most instances, remit the garnished amount after each disbursement cycle. Agencies need not pro-rate payments for less than a full disbursement cycle.

(j) If an agency receives legal process which is regular on its face, the agency shall not be required to ascertain whether the authority which issued the legal process had obtained personal jurisdiction over the employee-obligor.

(k) At the discretion of the executive agency, the agency's administrative costs in executing a garnishment may be added to the garnishment amount and the agency may retain costs recovered as offsetting collections. To facilitate recovery of these administrative costs, an administrative fee may be assessed for each legal process that is received and processed by an agency, provided that the fee constitutes the agency's administrative costs in executing the garnishment action.

(l) Where an employee-obligor has filed a bankruptcy petition under section 301 or 302 of title 11 of the United States Code, or is the debtor named in an involuntary petition filed under section 303 of title 11, the agency must cease garnishment proceedings affected by the automatic stay provision, section 362(a) of title 11. Upon filing a petition in bankruptcy or upon learning that he or she is the debtor named in an involuntary petition, the employee-obligor should immediately notify the agency. To enable the agency to determine if the automatic stay applies, the employee-obligor should provide the agency with a copy of the filing or a letter from counsel stating that the petition was filed and indicating the court and the case number, the chapter under which the petition was filed, whether State or federal exemptions were elected, and the nature of the claim underlying the garnishment order.

(m) Within 30 days following the collection of the amount required in the garnishment order, the creditor may submit a final statement of interest that accrued during the garnishment process, and the employing agency shall process the statement for payment, provided the garnishment order authorizes the collection of such interest. This final statement of interest should be accompanied by a statement of account showing how the interest was computed.

[60 FR 13030, Mar. 10, 1995, as amended at 63 FR 14787, Mar. 26, 1998]