Wage Garnishment Questions

by Nicholas Pell ; Updated July 27, 2017

Wage garnishment refers to a practice where your wages have deductions taken from them for the purpose of paying back outstanding debt. For those with a great deal of unpaid debt, wage garnishment may be a legitimate concern. However, knowing the facts regarding wage garnishment questions will give you solid legal ground to stand on, as well as giving you peace of mind by separating fact from fantasy.

How Does a Creditor Get Garnishment?

To get a garnishment, most creditors must first take you to court and get a judgment. After you fail to comply with this judgment, the creditor must then return to court for the purpose of getting a garnishment order. Some debts, such as tax debt, do not require an initial judgment and may go straight to the garnishment phase.

How Much Can a Creditor Take Through Garnishment?

This depends on state law where you live. Federal law sets garnishment at the lower amount of one of two values. The first is whatever earnings you make over 30 times the federal minimum wage. The second measure is 25 percent of all your disposable income. Federal law defines disposable income as anything left in your paycheck after legally mandated deductions such as taxes and Social Security payments are made. However, these limitations relate only to paying back certain kinds of debt. In the case of child support and alimony, as much as 60 percent of your disposable income can be garnished.

Is There Any Way to Stop Garnishment?

There are two main ways to keep your wages from being garnished once a writ of garnishment has been entered. The first is to declare bankruptcy. This stops the payments immediately beginning when you file. This method will not work for garnishments related to child support or back taxes. The other method is to work with your creditors to try and come up with a satisfactory settlement. You can also get a garnishment reduced by going before a judge and explaining that the garnishment order is making it difficult or impossible to support yourself and your family.

Can I Be Fired Over Garnishment?

The Consumer Credit Protection Act contains a provision that protects employees from discharge over the question of garnishment for any single debt. Employers who violate this law are subject to punishment by fines of up to $1,000 as of 2010 or one year in jail.

About the Author

Nicholas Pell began writing professionally in 1995. His features on arts, culture, personal finance and technology have appeared in publications such as "LA Weekly," Salon and Business Insider. Pell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.