Is money being taken from your wages to pay debts? Find out what you can do.
Can money be taken out of my pay if I owe a creditor money?
Yes, but ONLY after the creditor sues you and wins. The creditor will get a court order (a judgment) that will force your employer to take money from your paycheck to pay the debt. The court order is called a "wage execution." (It is also called a wage "garnishment" or "attachment"). Your earnings may be "exempt" (protected) and will not have to be taken.
They should not take money out of your pay if...
You are receiving welfare and working under a work incentive earnings or similar program. You must tell the court or money will still be taken from your wages. (See below, What can I do if I can’t afford it or my wages...?)
How will I find out if money will be taken out of my pay?
Your employer must give you a copy of the wage execution order as soon they get it from the court. You have 20 days from the "date of service" written on the wage execution form before any money can be taken out of your pay.
How much can they take?
You must be left with whichever is more:
- at least $330 -or-
- 75% of your take-home pay
If your weekly take home pay is $330 or less, nothing may be taken out of your pay for the wage execution. Child support has different rules... see below.
As soon as you have the execution form, make sure your employer is not taking too much out of your pay. Ask your employer to show you how they came up with the amount.
- Ask the court to lower the amount, or
- Ask for an exemption if your wages are protected.
A court hearing will be held. You may want your own lawyer if you did not get the legal papers or you do not owe the debt.
To ask for a court hearing:
• Fill out and file the form Exemption & Modification. (You should have received this form along with the Wage Execution Order.)
• If you file WITHIN the 20-day period, no money will be taken out of your pay until a hearing is held and the judge makes a decision.
• If you file AFTER the 20-day period, the original amount the court ordered will be taken out of your pay until a hearing is held and the judge orders another amount or you and the creditor come to an agreement.
Get ready for the court hearing:
You can explain to the judge why you need less money taken out of your pay. Before your hearing, write down a basic budget that shows how much money you need to support yourself and your family. Explain the size of your family, your debts, and unusual expenses.
You may want your own lawyer if you did not get the legal papers or you do not owe the debt.
- If you can, get help from a lawyer the day you get the legal papers.
- You should be left with 40 times the minimum wage to take home -- unless the withholding is for child support (see below, Special Rules for Child Support).
- You cannot be fired or disciplined simply because your wages have been attached (unless you have more than seven wage attachments in a calendar year).
SPECIAL RULES for CHILD SUPPORT
The court order to take money from your pay for child support is called a "withholding order for support" (rather than a "wage execution"). And, the rules are different for child support.
How much can they take?
- If you earn $145 OR MORE per week, you must be left with $123.25 take home pay per week.
- If you earn LESS THAN $145 per week, you must be left with 85% of your take home pay per week. (For example, if you earn $130 per week, you must be left with $110.50 per week).
These minimum amounts that you must be left with are called "exemptions." The judge will explain your right to the minimum exemption amount. If you are not at the hearing, a notice must be sent by certified mail to your last known address.
What can I do?
You can ask for a court hearing within 15 days of getting the notice and claim that:
- You do not owe any money, are not past due, or should not have money taken from your pay, or
- You have not been left with the minimum exemption amount.
To ask for a court hearing:
- Fill out and file the claim form (on page 2 of the Notice and Claim Form / Support Income Withholding, Form #JD-FM-68).
•Sometimes -- because of the exemption -- only part of the child support amount that you owe is taken from your pay. You will still owe the rest of the child support order until a court reduces the amount of the order.
•If your income is too low to pay the order, you should think about asking the court to change the child support order. (See our article, How to Change Your Child Support Order).
This flyer was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
This information is based on laws in Connecticut as of 4/2013. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice. For advice on your situation, call Statewide Legal Services or contact a lawyer. ©4/2013
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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