Attachment of Income Order Scheme - Notes for
Where the court is satisfied that a maintenance payer ("the
payer") defaults in maintenance payment without reasonable
excuse, the maintenance payee ("the payee") may apply to the
court for an order to attach the payer's income (i.e. to deduct
from the income and pay the amount deducted to the payee)
to recover the arrears of maintenance and future maintenance
2. Being the income source of the payer, you are obliged
to provide the court and the payee with information regarding
the income of the payer, and to comply with an AIO after it
is issued by deducting a specified amount from the income
and pay it to the payee direct.
3. The purpose of this booklet is to explain to you in simple
terms the "Attachment of Income Orders", 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.
What is an Attachment of Income Order?
4. 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
5. An AIO will enable the payee to receive maintenance payment
direct from you without contacting the payer. You, being the
"income source" of the payer (such as employer, tenants, etc.),
shall deduct from the income of the payer the amount specified
in the AIO when each payment of income is due and pay the
amount to the payee direct.
6. 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, but may also include
future maintenance payments. Moreover, there are no legal
restrictions on the payment methods. The court may order you
to pay by bank transfer, cheque, cash or other means of payment.
In what circumstances will the court issue an
7. The law provides that the court may issue an AIO where
- the payer has failed, without reasonable excuse, to make
any payment in compliance with a maintenance order; and
- the payer has any income capable of being attached ("attachable
8. In order to determine whether the payer has failed to
pay "without reasonable excuse", the court has to consider
the reason for his default. Generally speaking, the payer
would be presumed to have defaulted "without reasonable excuse"
if he is able to pay but gives no explanation for his non-compliance
with the maintenance order. The court has to consider the
evidence given by the payer and the payee, and where necessary
, the evidence provided by other people (such as you or other
income sources of the payer) before it can decide whether
the payer has failed, "without reasonable excuse", to make
9. 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 employers
and tenants of the payer, as well as companies of which he
is a shareholder or a director.
10. "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.
11. For example, if the payer is a property owner, the rental
receipts may be treated as "attachable income" and the court
may issue an AIO to the tenant. If the payer is 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
the payer is a director of the company then the court may
treat his emoluments as "attachable income" and the court
may issue an AIO to the company.
What responsibility do I have during the AIO
12. After the payee has made an application to the court,
the payer has to submit a "statement of means" in which details
of his income and income sources must be disclosed. The court
would order you to submit within 14 days a "statement of verification"
to verify the contents of the annex which is relevant to you
and to provide relevant information for the court to consider
(e.g. any deductions made by you from the payer's wages in
accordance with section 32(2) of the Employment Ordinance
(Cap. 57)Note 1).
13. If you wish to address the court on any issue relating
to the statement of means or the statement of verification,
you may express such wish in the statement of verification
and the court will inform you of the date and venue of the
hearing. You must submit the statement of verification within
the period mentioned in para. 12 no matter whether you are
going to attend the hearing or not.
What should I do after an AIO is issued?
14. The court will make an AIO(s) where it is satisfied that
it is appropriate to attach one or more of the payer's incomes.
The payee has to serve the order on you and the payer 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.
Therefore, before the commencement date of the order, you
are still liable to pay the income in full to the payer.
15. When an AIO becomes effective, you should comply with
the order to pay the payee the amount specified in the AIO.
Your liabilities towards the payer are discharged by your
paying him the remaining amount. For example, the payer's
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 the
payer, you have to deduct $3,500 and pay it direct to the
payee. You are liable to pay the payer the remaining $4,500
16. However, you are not liable to pay any amount to the
payer in the following circumstances :
- when the payer's income has dropped to such a level that
it is insufficient to cover the amount specified in the
- when you are an employer of the payer and, according
to section 32 of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), you
are allowed to make deductions from his wages (such as recovering
the cost of meals or accommodation provided for the employee)
Note 2 and the balance after
deduction is insufficient to pay the specified amount.
17. In the case of (a), you should pay the reduced income
in full to the payee. For example, if the payer's income is
$8,000 while the amount to be attached as specified in an
AIO is $4,500, and if his income later drops to $4,000, you
shall deduct the reduced income, i.e. $4,000, in full and
pay it to the payee.
18. In the case of (b), you shall pay the payee the balance
of the payer's wages in full after making the deduction so
authorized under the Employment Ordinance. For example, the
payer's income is $8,000, while the amount to be attached
as specified in an AIO is $4,500, and the amount you may deduct
under the Employment Ordinance is $4,000. Then, you may first
deduct the $4,000 and pay the remaining sum of $4,000 in full
to the payee. By doing so, you will be regarded to have complied
with the AIO.
19. In the case of either (a) or (b), you are not required
to pay any amount to the payer. You should, however, inform
the payer and the payee of the reasons why you cannot pay
the amount specified in the AIO and of the actual amount that
has already been paid to the payee.
What should I do when I am no longer the income
source of the payer?
20. If you have never been or have ceased to be an income
source of the payer prior to receipt of the order to verify
the statement of means, you should notify the court in the
specified form (Annex) within seven days of the date of that
21. If you have ceased to be an income source of the payer
prior to receipt of the AIO, you should notify the court and
the payee in the specified form (Annex) within seven days
of the cessation.
22. If you cease to be an income source of the payer at any
time when the AIO is in force, you should notify the court
and the payee in the specified form (Annex) within seven days
of the cessation. The court may, on its own motion, make an
order discharging the AIO upon receipt of your notification.
What happen if I refuse to cooperate with the
23. You commit an offence and are liable to a fine if you
fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with an order of
the court, or knowingly provide false information to the court.
Note 1 According to section
32(2) of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), an employer may
make deduction for : absence from work; damage to or loss
of goods, equipment or property of the employer; recovery
of any advance or over-payment of wages; meals and accommodation
provided by the employer; contributions paid by the employer
for medical benefit scheme, superannuation scheme, retirement
scheme or thrift scheme; any loan made by the employer to
the employee; and other deductions which are required or authorized
under any enactment to be made from the wages of an employee.
Note 2 If the deduction made
by you from the maintenance payer's wages in accordance with
section 32(2) of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57) together
with the deduction specified in the AIO exceed the whole wages
payable to the maintenance payer in respect of that wage period,
then you shall have the priority to make the deduction under
the Employment Ordinance - section 32(3) of the Employment