Creditors can obtain garnishment judgments against debtors through Oregon's circuit courts for a variety of debts. These courts -- located in every one of Oregon's 36 counties -- are state trial courts that handle criminal and civil cases. When a creditor obtains a judgment for debt default, a writ of garnishment is served on the debtor's employer, who is obligated to make deductions from the employee's paycheck. In Oregon, a writ of garnishment expires 90 days after being served on an employer. If debt isn't satisfied within 90 days, the creditor must obtain another garnishment order.
Many creditors must first sue debtors before they can garnish wages. Consumer debt creditors -- such as credit card companies and auto loan companies -- must obtain a court judgment before they can garnish wages. Oregon residents can have their wages garnished by out-of-state creditors through Oregon's circuit courts. Typically, out-of-state creditors turn the debtor's account over to a collection agency located in the debtor's state. For example, an out-of-state credit card company can transfer debt to an Oregon-based collection agency. The collection agency can then obtain a garnishment judgment from an Oregon circuit court in the county where the debtor lives.
Oregon circuit courts also issue garnishment orders for monetary judgments. For example, if an Oregon resident loses a case in small claims court, she can have her wages garnished if she fails to pay within a prescribed period. Under these circumstances, the winner can obtain a wage garnishment order through a circuit court and receive payments via deductions from the debtor's paychecks until the debt is satisfied.
Child Support, Taxes and Student Loans
As in other states, when Oregon residents fall behind on child support payments or taxes, they may have their wages garnished. However, child support creditors and tax creditors aren't required to obtain garnishment orders through Oregon's circuit courts. State agencies are allowed to bypass obtaining a court order through a streamlined process called administrative wage garnishment. Administrative wage garnishment allows state agencies -- such as the Oregon Child Support Program -- to circumvent circuit courts. Oregon residents who default on student loans can have their wages garnished without a circuit court judgment.
Wage garnishment amounts are limited by federal and Oregon law. Federal law states that consumer creditors can't deduct more than 25 percent of a debtor's "disposable earnings" -- the amount left to the employee after mandatory deductions such as taxes and union dues. States are free to set lower limits; however, they can't set higher limits. Oregon law also allows consumer creditors to deduct up to 25 percent of an Oregon resident's disposable earnings. However, if an Oregon resident owes back taxes or back child support, up to 50 percent of disposable earnings are susceptible to garnishment.
- Oregon Judicial Departments: An Introduction to the Courts of Oregon
- OregonLaws: 18.625 -- Duration of Writs Effect
- Oregon Judicial Departments: Clatsop County State Courts Small Claims Department
- Oregon.gov: Garnishments
- Oregon Child Support Program: Enforcement
- OregonLaws: 18.385 -- Wage Exemption
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #30
Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.