Other People Are Reading
How Garnishment Works
With a garnishment order, your creditors take a portion of your wages before you even get them. While you still earn your pay as you would without a garnishment, your employer takes a part of your wages from your paycheck and forwards it to the creditor or agency to which you owe the debt. Generally, garnishments remain in place until the debt is fully paid, so the amount of time your wages will be garnished depends on how long it takes you to pay back the debt based on how much you contribute each pay period via garnishment.
Limits on Garnishment
Since it can be difficult to support yourself or your family when a large portion of your wages is being garnished, federal law places limits on the garnishment percentage. Only 25 percent of your disposable earnings, which is the amount left after mandatory deductions, can be taken out of each check. If the amount by which your wages exceed 30 times the minimum wage is lower than 25 percent of your disposable earnings, your garnishment is limited to this lower amount. States can set an even lower percentage permitted for garnishment. These percentage limits apply no matter how long the garnishment is in place.
Require a Court Order
Creditors must follow a set of legal procedures before they can garnish your wages, and the procedures to be followed vary, depending on the type of debt you owe. Most creditors, including credit card companies and medical providers, can only garnish your wages if they obtain a court order to do so. Thus, you have a chance to defend yourself against a garnishment when the case goes to court. If, for example, you do not think you owe the debt your creditor demands, you can try to prove that to the judge. Creditors for child support, back taxes and student loans do not have to follow these court procedures. Instead, they can garnish wages simply by sending required legal notices to your employer.
Special Rules for Child Support
Since supported families rely on child support, federal laws allow more of a garnishee's wages to be seized to pay child support debts. Under federal law, up to 50 percent of your disposable earnings can be garnished to pay child support if you have a spouse or child to support. If you do not have another dependent, up to 60 percent of your disposable earnings can be garnished; if you are at least 12 weeks in arrears, an additional 5 percent can be taken.