If you don’t pay back a debt, the person you owe can try having a portion of your wages paid to them. This is called garnishing wages.
The garnishing process
There are several steps the person you owe (the creditor) must follow. To begin, they must bring a legal action against you for the debt. They must get a court judgment in that action to be able to garnish your wages.
As well, the creditor must apply for a garnishing order. This is a separate court order. It requires a third party who owes money to you (in this case, your employer) to make payments to the creditor.
If the garnishing order is made, the creditor serves that order on your employer. The employer must send a portion of your wages to the court registry.
The creditor then must apply to the court to have the money paid out to them.
Laws to protect you if your wages are garnished
If your wages are garnished, there’s a limit to how much of your wages a creditor can take. Usually, that limit is 30% of your net income.
However, if the creditor is claiming spousal or child support payments, they can take up to 50%.
A garnishing order applies only to wages payable within the next seven days. So if the creditor wants to tap into what you’re owed in the next pay period, they must apply for a new garnishing order. (There’s an exception for support payments.)
Meanwhile, if having your wages garnished causes you serious financial hardship, you can apply to court for relief. We explain how shortly.