Credit Infocenter

How to Get a Wage Garnishment Judgment Exemption

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: October 26, 2017

It's stressful enough owing debt you cannot afford to pay. But it's devastating if and when you're forced to pay anyway in the form of wage garnishment. Fortunately, it is not a foregone conclusion that a Wage Withholding Order will stick. The key, of course, is knowing what to do about it.

What is a Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment is a process by which employers are legally required to divert a portion of your paycheck to one or more creditors.

What Type of Debts May Be Garnished?

If you owe on unpaid student loans, medical bills, credit cards, or state or federal taxes, any of them may be legally obtained through wage garnishment.

How Much of My Income Can Be Garnished?

If your wages are being garnished by your employer, the amount diverted cannot exceed more than 25 percent of your income. This applies whether it is one or several creditors collecting on your debt in this manner.

How Will I Be Notified if My Wages Are Going to be Garnished?

You will receive a Wage Withholding Order from your employer. Unless you take action, you can expect the garnishment to start in 30 days.

Can My Employer Legally Fire Me For Having My Wages Garnished?

If your wages are being garnished by one creditor, no, you cannot be fired. However, if additional creditors seek the same remedy for your unpaid debt, yes, your employer does have the legal right to let you go.

How Can I Prevent My Wages From Being Garnished?

As soon as you receive the Wage Withholding Order from your employer, file a Wage Garnishment Judgment Exemption with the county clerk's office from which the withholding order originated. Do so immediately, as it can take one-to-two months for a hearing to be set on your behalf.

Is It Expensive to File a Wage Garnishment Judgment Exemption?

No. On the contrary, filing costs just $8.

What Happens After I File a Wage Garnishment Judgment Exemption?

A hearing will be set for which you must appear to provide relevant documentation. This should include pay stubs of any checks from which wages have already been garnished (if applicable) and a detailed list of your monthly living expenses.

Under What Circumstances May I Be Granted or Denied a Wage Garnishment Judgment Exemption?

It all depends on your ratio of income vs. your living expenses. If the judge clearly sees that you are living at the bare minimum as it is, and that wage garnishment would prevent payment of necessary bills, such as rent and utilities, you will be granted the exemption. However, if the judge determines that your "living" expenses include things considered to be luxuries, the exemption will be denied.

Do Creditors Have Any Defense Against a Wage Garnishment Judgment Exemption?

Yes, creditors may file an opposition to the exemption. They may also submit another Wage Withholding Order again after 6 months time, or if your financial situation changes. Note, if a creditor violates this rule and seeks wage garnishment under circumstances contrary to these, they may be fined.

Are Wage Garnishment Laws Applicable in All Situations?

No, as there may be exceptions in some state and/or federal tax debt situations, as well as bankruptcy proceedings.

Please note: WE ARE NOT ATTORNEYS. If you are being sued, it's always a good idea to hire an attorney or get some legal assistance. If you cannot afford an attorney, a lot of people have handled their cases pro per or without a lawyer. Our articles are meant to provide basic information on handling litigation.