Federal law and many states restrict the amount your employer can take from your paycheck for a wage garnishment. Though two places can garnish your paycheck consecutively, the total amount cannot be more than what the law allows. Your employer is responsible for deducting the right amount from your paycheck.
Deduction Limits on Private Debts
Garnishment for private debts, such as medical and credit card bills, private student loans, and bank loans, can be consecutive, but only up to the maximum allowed. As of 2013, and under federal law, the maximum is the lesser of 25 percent of your disposable income or the amount by which your disposable income is greater than 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage. Your disposable income is your gross income minus legally required deductions, such as payroll taxes and state unemployment insurance. Some states set a different garnishment limit than federal law, in which case, your employer must use the smaller amount.
Consecutive Withholding on Two Private Debts
If your two private debt garnishments combined exceed the legal maximum, state law may require that your employer wait until the first garnishment is paid off before deducting the second one. Or it might allow your employer to withhold the second one concurrently with the first, up to the maximum amount.
Maximum Amounts for Government Debts
As of 2013, up to 50 percent of your paycheck can be deducted for child support or alimony if you’re supporting a child or spouse not stated in the support order, according to the U. S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. Otherwise, the limit is 60 percent. An additional 5 percent applies if you owe back support of at least 12 weeks. For federal student loans, up to 15 percent of your disposable wages may be garnished for one debt. For federal, state and local tax levies, the deduction amount respectively depends on the Internal Revenue Service and the state and local government.
Simultaneous Withholding on Two Government Debts
If you have two government garnishments, your employer can withhold them consecutively, provided the total amount does not exceed the legal limit. For example, if you have a federal student loan garnishment for 15 percent and another one for 10 percent, your employer can withhold both at the same time, as the total does not exceed 25 percent as required by federal law. However, if you have a child support garnishment for more than 25 percent, no other garnishment can be deducted, according to Public Counsel, a national nonprofit law firm.
Wage Garnishment Priority
State law dictates the priority of garnishments. To know which one to deduct first, your employer should consult the agency that issued the garnishment or obtain legal advice. Support orders take priority over all other garnishments. Generally, next in line are bankruptcy orders, garnishment for non-tax debts owed to the federal government, federal tax levies, state tax levies, local tax levies, and lastly, garnishments by creditors.
Garnishments With Expiration Dates
Creditor garnishments issued under state law often have an expiration date. For example, if the garnishment order is for six months, the creditor must renew the order to be able to continue garnishing after six months if the debt is not fully paid. If that garnishment lapses, your employer must then deduct the next garnishment in line.
- Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project: Wage Garnishments
- National Federation of Independent Business: Understanding the Guidelines for Wage Garnishments
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #30: The Federal Wage Garnishment Law, Consumer Credit Protection Act's Title 3 (CCPA)
- Bloomberg BNA: Priorities, Calculations Differ Among Garnishment Types
- Oregon.gov: Garnishments
- Public Counsel: Wage Garnishment
- Missouri Department of Higher Education: Administrative Wage Garnishment
- Leiden and Leiden: Garnishment
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.