Wage Attachments: Is money is being taken from your wages to pay a debt?
Can money be taken out of my pay if I owe money to a creditor?
Yes, but only if the creditor sues you and wins. If that happens, the creditor will get a court order called a wage execution (also called a wage garnishment or wage attachment) that will make your employer take money from your paycheck to pay back your debt. In some cases, your earnings may be protected (or exempt) and cannot be taken out of your pay. There are also legal limits on how much of your wages can be taken out of your pay.
Money should not be taken out of your pay if you are getting state benefits (welfare) and working under a work incentive or similar program. If you think your earnings are protected, you must tell the court or money will be taken from your pay.
How will I find out that 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. Money cannot be taken from your pay until 20 days from the date of service written on the wage execution form. If possible, try to get help from a lawyer soon after you get the wage attachment papers.
How much money can be taken from my pay?
As soon as you get the wage attachment form, make sure your employer is not taking too much out of your pay. Ask your employer to show you how it calculated the amount.
You must be left with whichever is greater:
- at least $384 (in 2016), or
- 75% of your take-home pay.
If your weekly take-home pay is $384 or less (this amount is calculated by multiplying 40 times the minimum wage), nothing may be taken out of your pay. The rules are different if the wage execution is for child support.
What can I do if I can’t afford it or my wages are protected?
If you can’t afford to pay the debt, you can ask the court for a modification to lower the amount.
If your wages are protected, you can ask the court for an exemption.
A court hearing will then be held. You may want to get a lawyer if you didn’t get wage attachment papers from your employer or you don’t owe the debt.
How do I ask for a court hearing?
1. Fill out and file the Exemption & Modification form (JD-CV-3a). Your employer should have given you this form along with the wage execution order. 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.
- If you file within the 20-day period, no money will be taken out of your pay until a hearing is held and a judge makes a decision.
- If you file after the 20-day period, the amount of the wage execution ordered by the court will be taken out of your pay. This amount will continue to be taken until
- a hearing is held and a judge orders another amount,
- you and the creditor come to an agreement, or
- until the debt is paid off.
2. Get ready for the court hearing. You should prepare to tell the judge why you need less money taken out of your pay or why your wages are exempt. Before your hearing, write down a budget that shows how much money you need to support yourself and your family. Explain the size of your family, your debts, and any unusual expenses.
Can I be fired or disciplined for having wage attachments?
Unless you have more than seven wage attachments in a calendar year, you cannot be fired or disciplined just because your wages were attached.
For more information, see the other legal aid booklets: