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Wage Garnishment

Wage Garnishment

Wage Garnishment: Understanding the Process


Wage garnishment is a legal process used to collect unpaid debts from individuals who have failed to make timely payments. This process involves a court order allowing creditors or government agencies to withhold a portion of a debtor’s earnings. The withheld amount is then used to pay off the outstanding debt. In this article, we will discuss the wage garnishment process, including who can garnish wages, the legal requirements, and what individuals can do if their wages are being garnished.

Who Can Garnish Wages?

Wage garnishment can be ordered by government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax authorities, as well as private creditors, like credit card companies, banks, and collection agencies. The specific requirements and processes may vary depending on the creditor, the state, and the type of debt.

Government agencies typically have greater power to garnish wages than private creditors. For example, the IRS can garnish up to 15% of an individual’s disposable income for unpaid taxes. State tax authorities can garnish wages for unpaid state taxes and local taxes, such as property taxes.

Private creditors must first obtain a court order before they can garnish wages. This process typically involves filing a lawsuit against the debtor and obtaining a judgment from the court. The creditor can then use the judgment to seek wage garnishment.

Legal Requirements for Wage Garnishment

Wage garnishment is subject to certain legal requirements and restrictions. These requirements are in place to protect the debtor’s rights and prevent excessive withholding of income.

1. Notice: Employers and individuals subject to wage garnishment must be given notice of the garnishment order. The notice must include information about the amount to be garnished, the creditor or agency issuing the order, and any exemptions or rights to contest the order. The notice must also provide information about how to request a hearing to contest the garnishment.

2. Maximum Garnishment Amount: Federal and state laws establish maximum amounts that can be garnished from an individual’s earnings. The limits vary depending on the type of debt and the debtor’s income. The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) sets a limit of 25% of disposable earnings or the amount by which disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less.

3. Exemptions: Certain types of income and certain individuals are exempt from wage garnishment. For example, Social Security and disability income are generally exempt from garnishment. Other types of exempt income may include child support payments, workers’ compensation, and retirement benefits.

What to Do If Your Wages Are Being Garnished

If your wages are being garnished, there are several steps you can take to address the issue and protect your rights.

1. Check the Accuracy of the Order: Make sure that the garnishment order is accurate and follows legal requirements. Check the notice for errors or inaccuracies. If you believe the order is incorrect, contact the creditor or agency to request a correction.

2. Challenge the Order: If you believe that the garnishment order is unfair or legally incorrect, you can challenge it by requesting a hearing. The hearing will provide an opportunity to present evidence and arguments in support of your position.

3. Seek Legal Advice: If you are facing wage garnishment, consider seeking legal advice from an attorney. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options, as well as represent you in court if necessary.

4. Negotiate a Payment Plan: Consider negotiating a payment plan with the creditor or agency instead of facing wage garnishment. A payment plan may allow you to pay off the debt over time and avoid the negative consequences of wage garnishment.


Wage garnishment is a legal process used to collect unpaid debts from individuals who have failed to make timely payments. Government agencies and private creditors can seek wage garnishment to recover unpaid taxes, debts, or judgments. Wage garnishment is subject to certain legal requirements and restrictions, including notice, maximum garnishment amounts, and exemptions. Individuals facing wage garnishment should check the accuracy of the order, challenge it if necessary, seek legal advice, and negotiate a payment plan with the creditor or agency. By understanding the wage garnishment process and taking proactive steps, individuals can protect their rights and avoid the negative consequences of wage garnishment.

What is Wage Garnishment?

• A garnishment is a process that involves collecting a monetary judgment against a defendant by ordering a third party to deliver finances–which would otherwise be owed to the defendant–to the plaintiff. As a result of this classification, a wage garnishment keeps this definition in mind, only the finances delivered are taken from an individual’s salary to pay off an outstanding debt.

• A garnishment is a legal remedy authorized by a court to fulfill a loan obligation that is left outstanding. A wage garnishment is a last resort tool used by creditors to collect an outstanding debt from an individual who has defaulted on a previous loan.

• If you are having trouble paying your bills or fulfilling a debt obligation, a creditor may take money from your earned salary through a garnishment proceeding. That being said, there are a number of state and federal laws that will protect you and ensure that the creditor is using this last resort tool in a humane and suitable way.

How Do Wage Garnishments Work?

• A wage garnishment is issued when an individual fails to meet the repayment obligation of a bill or debt. When you stop paying creditors, they have the ability, through a court’s judgment, to collect what is rightfully owed.

• The court order is the formal legal proceeding that can initiate a wage garnishment and subsequently allow a creditor to take money from your paycheck. The court order details the specific amount owed and the interest rate attached to the outstanding debt. During this process the court will review your particular financial situation. If the court decides that you unreliable or unable to meet the loan requirements established through the previous agreement, it will permit the creditor to garnish a percentage of your earned salary. When this occurs, the creditor must supply you with a garnishment claim, which contains the following information: A clear statement that reveals the initiation of a wage garnishment proceeding; a description of any “exemptions” from wage garnishment (simply means what cannot be taken from the individual in debt); steps to follow to challenge or appeal the wage garnishment process.

• Following the statement, the creditor takes the court order for wage garnishment to the local sheriff to initiate the collection process. This process will be suspended if the individual in debt possesses valuable possessions such as: liquid assets, a motor vehicle, or regular wages.

• The local sheriff, upon receiving the court order, will present your employer with the garnishment papers. These papers will order the employer to take out a certain percentage from each paycheck. The money taken from the paycheck is then used to pay off a portion of the outstanding debt.

• Wage garnishment is typically used when you are steadily working at more than the minimum hourly wage. Creditors will also avoid wage garnishment when other claims exist against your wages.