When a court issues a judgment in a civil case, a winning plaintiff has the right to pursue further collection through the legal system. In Texas, however, state law restricts wage garnishment, or the seizure of funds from the defendant's wages. The Lone Star State allows garnishment in only a few circumstances to settle outstanding debts.
State Law and Garnishment
In wage garnishment, a creditor applies to a court for an order allowing direct seizure of funds from the debtor's wages. The order is served on the employer, who must withhold the funds and send them either directly to the creditor or to the court for forwarding. Each state has laws governing the procedure and sets conditions on what type of debts a garnishment order can satisfy. Texas, for example, bars creditors from using garnishment for consumer debts such as auto loans and credit cards.
Marital Separation Debts
Texas does allow garnishment for the payment of past-due alimony or child support. These payments must be court-ordered, which means that a spouse may not enforce an informal agreement, either verbal or written. The amount to be withheld depends on disposable income: the amount left after withholding for federal and state taxes, union dues, and pension and insurance contributions. Texas allows the garnishment of up to half of disposable income for support and alimony.
Federally Backed Student Loans
A debtor behind on a student loan backed by the federal government can also see his wages garnished. A student loan lender does not need a court order, as Texas permits administrative garnishment, limited to 15 percent of disposable income. Federal law allows a worker subject to garnishment to keep, at a minimum, 30 times the minimum wage amount, which in Texas in 2015 matched the federal rate of $7.25 an hour.
Taxes and Out-of-State Judgments
Falling behind on taxes can also subject wage-earners to garnishment. Both federal and stage taxing authorities can pursue administrative garnishments under Texas law. The state also permits wage garnishments if a debtor lives in Texas but works for an employer in another state, or works for an company located in another state where garnishment is permitted. In addition, if a debt is contracted in Texas and the debtor moves out of state, a Texas creditor can "domesticate" a court order and pursue garnishment, if that state's laws permit it.
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