Attachment of Income Order Scheme - Notes for
If you, being a maintenance payer, default in maintenance
payment without reasonable excuse, the maintenance payee ("payee")
may apply to the court for an order to attach your income
(i.e. to deduct from your income and pay the money deducted
to the payee) to recover the arrears of maintenance and future
2. The purpose of this booklet is to explain to you in simple
terms the "Attachment of Income Order" ("AIO"), a measure
through which maintenance payments can be collected. Though
in this booklet we strive to give a precise explanation of
the relevant laws and court procedures, the booklet itself
has no legal effect. Should you have any queries, you should
consult your solicitor or seek free legal advice from the
Free Legal Advice Service of the Duty Lawyer Scheme.
3. Although you may defend an AIO application without instructing
a solicitor, the professional knowledge and experience of
a solicitor may help you to promptly and accurately go through
the required procedures and present relevant facts for consideration
by the court.
4. In case you are in financial difficulties and cannot afford
to instruct a solicitor, you may apply for legal aid at the
Legal Aid Department. They will appoint a solicitor to act
for you in the court proceedings and help you in defending
the application, provided you pass the means and merit tests.
5. Should you need any legal assistance and legal advice,
you may contact the following department or organization for
Legal Aid Department
Legal Aid Department
Address : 24/F Queensway Government Offices, 66 Queensway,
Telephone No. : 2537 7677
Free Legal Advice of the Duty Lawyer Scheme
Appointment can be made at any District Office
Telephone No.: 2526 5969
What is an Attachment of Income Order?
6. An "Attachment of Income Order" ( "AIO" ) can be made
by the court under the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap
13), the Separation and Maintenance Orders Ordinance (Cap
16) and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance
7. An AIO will enable the payee to receive maintenance payment
direct from your income source without contacting you. Your
"income source" (such as employer, tenants, etc.) shall deduct
from your income the amount specified in the AIO when each
payment of income is due and pay the amount to the payee direct.
8. The amount to be attached, period of attachment and payment
method are specified in an AIO. The amount to be attached
is not confined to arrears of maintenance payment, but may
also include future maintenance payments. Moreover, there
are no legal restrictions on the payment methods. The court
may order your income source to pay by bank transfer, cheque,
cash or other methods of payment.
In what circumstances will the court issue an
9. The law provides that the court may issue an AIO where
- you have failed, without reasonable excuse, to make any
payment in compliance with a maintenance order; AND
- you have any income capable of being attached ("attachable
10. In order to determine whether you have failed to make
maintenance payment "without reasonable excuse", the court
has to consider the reason of your default. Generally speaking,
you would be presumed to have defaulted "without reasonable
excuse" if you are able to pay but give no explanation for
your non-compliance with the maintenance order. The court
has to consider the evidence given by you and the payee, and
where necessary , the evidence provided by other people (such
as your employer) before it can decide whether you have failed,
"without reasonable excuse", to make the payments.
11. The word "income" is very broad in meaning. Apart from
salary and wages, it may also include rental receipts, company
dividends, directors' emoluments and various kinds of income.
Therefore, "income source" includes people like your employer
and tenants, as well as companies of which you are a shareholder
or a director.
12. "Attachable income" has not been defined in law. Generally
speaking, an "attachable income" should have an identifiable
income source, e.g. a person, company or institution. Otherwise,
the court will be unable to issue an AIO.
13. For example, if you are a property owner, the rental
receipts may be treated as "attachable income" and the court
may issue an AIO to the tenant. If you are a shareholder,
then the dividends from the company may be treated as "attachable
income" and the court may issue an AIO to the company. If
you are a director of the company then the court may treat
your emoluments as "attachable income" and the court may issue
an AIO to the company.
What is the application procedure of an AIO?
14. The payee should make the application by summons or originating
summons. When an application is made, the payee would serve
on you a sealed copy of the summons (or originating summons),
copy of the affidavit and a form of statement of means by
one of the following means :
- serving the documents on you personallyNote1 ; or
- sending the documents to your last known address by post
or registered post.
15. Under the law, where the documents are served on you
by means of (b), the documents shall be deemed to have been
served on the seventh day after the documents were sent.
16. You must forward to the court and the payee a copy of
"statement of means", within 14 days of the service of the
application documents, setting out the details of all your
income and income sources. Subsequently, the court will send
the statement of means to the relevant income sources and
order them to verify the contents.
17. If you do not submit the statement of means within 14
days after the date of service of the application for an AIO,
the payee may make an ex parte application to the court, requesting
the court to order you to submit the statement. A
person who fails to submit the statement in compliance with
the court order commits an offence and is liable to a fine
What information is required in the statement
18. The information required is already stated in the form
of statement of means. All you have to do is to fill in the
form honestly. If you have more than one income source (for
example, you are an employee and you own property which has
been let out), then you should use a separate annex to give
details of each of your income.
19. You must honestly fill in the statement of means. A
person who knowingly makes a false statement commits an offence
and is liable to a fine and imprisonment.
20. Upon receipt of the statement of means, the court will
order the relevant income source to verify the contents of
the annex of the statement of means. The court would only
send the relevant annex to the income source concerned in
order to protect your privacy. Information of your other income
sources will not be disclosed.
Hearing of an AIO application and the issue of
21. Both you and the payee must appear at the hearing of
the AIO application, during which you may make representations
in response to the points raised by the payee. If the income
source wishes to address the court on any issue relating to
the statement of means or the statement of verification, he
may also seek permission from the court to attend the hearing.
22. The court will take into account the information submitted
by all parties in order to decide whether you have failed
to make payment without reasonable excuse, whether your income
is attachable and whether an AIO should be issued. The court
will make an AIO(s) where it is satisfied that it is appropriate
to attach the money from one or more of your incomes.
How am I going to receive my income when an AIO
23. The payee has to serve the order on you and the income
source(s) concerned either by personal service or by registered
post. The order shall take effect on the commencement date
specified in the order or 14 days after the date of service,
whichever is later. Before the commencement date of the order,
you can still receive the whole of your income as usual.
24. When an AIO becomes effective, the income source shall
comply with the order and pay to the payee the amount specified
in the AIO. His liability towards you are discharged by his
paying you the remaining amount. For example, your income
is $8,000 while the amount to be attached as specified in
an AIO is $3,500. Then, before the income is paid to you,
the income source has to deduct $3,500 and pay it directly
to the payee. The income source is liable to pay you the remaining
25. However, it may happen, at some later stage, that the
income source cannot pay you any income at all. This may happen
in the following circumstances :
- when your income has dropped to such a level that it
is insufficient to cover the amount specified in the AIO;
- when your income source is your employer who, according
to section 32 of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), is
allowed to make deductions from your wages (such as recovering
the cost of meals or accommodation provided for you by your
employer) and the balance after deduction is insufficient
to pay the specified amount.
26. In the case of (a), your income source shall pay the
reduced income in full to the payee. For example, if your
income is $8,000 while the amount specified in an AIO is $4,500,
and if your income later drops to $4,000, the income source
shall deduct the reduced income, i.e. $4,000, in full and
pay it to the payee.
27. In the case of (b), your income source (i.e. your employer)
shall pay to the payee the balance of your wages after making
the deduction so authorized under the Employment Ordinance.
For example, your income is $8,000, while the amount to be
attached as specified in an AIO is $4,500, and the amount
your employer may deduct under the Employment Ordinance is
$4,000. Then, the income source may first deduct the $4,000
he is entitled to and pay the remaining sum of $4,000 in full
to the payee. By doing so, he will be regarded to have complied
with the AIO.
28. In the case of either (a) or (b), your income source
is not required to pay any amount to you. Nevertheless,
you remain liable to pay the outstanding balance to the payee
(i.e. the amount of maintenance minus the amount the payee
received from the income source). The income source
shall inform you and the payee of the reasons why he cannot
pay the amount specified in the AIO and of the actual amount
that has already been paid to the payee. Of course, if the
reduction in your income is going to last for some time it
may be grounds for you applying to vary the maintenance order
and AIO. See paragraph 30.
Do I have to pay maintenance after an AIO is
29. The purpose of making an AIO is to provide the payee
with a reliable means of collecting maintenance payments.
In normal circumstances, an income source shall comply with
the order and pay the payee the amount as specified in the
AIO. In that case, you do not have to make any other arrangement
to pay the maintenance payee. However, if the specified amount
in the AIO(s) is less than the amount specified in the related
maintenance order :
- you are liable to pay the payee the balance; and
- you must notify the payee in writing of any increase
in your income or particulars of any new income source within
seven days of the changes. A person who fails
without reasonable excuse to comply with the requirement
or who knowingly makes a false statement commits an offence
and is liable to a fine and imprisonment.
How to vary or discharge an AIO?
30. The court may, upon application either by you or the
payee, vary an AIO. In the following circumstances, the court
may consider making an order to discharge an AIO :
- upon the application by you or the payee;
- upon receipt of notification to the effect that an income
source ceases to be your income source;
- upon the discharge or lapse of the related maintenance
- when another AIO is made.
31. An application for the variation or discharge of an AIO
shall be made by way of a summons and filing of an affidavit
- your name and correspondence address;
- the name and last known address of the payee;
- particulars of the maintenance order;
- the case number of the previous proceedings under which
the maintenance order was made;
- the case number of any judgment summons already issued
and particulars of any other execution proceedings already
instituted to enforce the maintenance order;
- the case number of the AIO which the application seeks
to vary or discharge; and
- the grounds for the application.
What happen if I refuse to cooperate with the
32. You commit an offence and are liable to a fine and imprisonment
if you fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with an
order of the court, or knowingly provide false information
to the court.