Can Creditors Garnish Wages if They Have Judgment Against You?


All states allow creditors to obtain judgments against debtors in default. When a creditor obtains such a judgment, he may be able to use it to garnish your wages. However, he can do this only if your state's law permits it and you have sufficient wages available for garnishment.

About Wage Garnishment

A judgment creditor garnishes your wages by submitting the required documentation, which may include a copy of the judgment or a writ of execution, to your employer. By law, your employer must withhold a portion of your wages and send it to the creditor. Creditors may continue to garnish your wages each pay period until they have recovered their debts, but they can't take more than the amount you owe.

Federal Law

Federal law permits most creditors to garnish up to 25 percent of your disposable income or the amount by which your disposable income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is smaller. Your disposable income is your income after required deductions for taxes, unemployment insurance, Social Security and state retirement. Creditors garnishing wages for child support, spousal maintenance or back taxes may garnish up to 50 percent of your wages if you have other dependents whom the order doesn't cover, or they can take up to 60 percent of your wages if you don't have other dependents.

State Laws

All states must impose at least the federal limitations on wage garnishment, but states may also impose stricter limits than those mandated by federal law. Some states, such as Illinois and Delaware, allow creditors to take only 15 percent of an individual's disposable income. Other states, such as Texas, don't permit wage garnishment at all for most debts. However, all states permit creditors to garnish wages for child support, spousal support and unpaid taxes.

Other Issues

A creditor can't garnish your wages if another creditor already has an order in place that exhausts the portion of your income available for garnishment. However, if the first creditor's garnishment doesn't exhaust all of the income available for garnishment, the second creditor can take the remainder. Social Security benefits are exempt from garnishment for all debts except those related to child support, spousal maintenance and back taxes. Some states exempt other forms of income from garnishment as well, such as pension benefits or government assistance.

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