July 1, 2016

blankWage garnishment, also referred to as wage attachment, is a government agency or court order that requires an employer to withhold a specific amount of money from your wages and give it straight to the institution or individual you owe money to until your debt is paid off. State and federal garnishment limits and the type of debt determine just how much of your wages can be garnished.

Child Support and Spousal Support

All child support orders since 1988 include a wage withholding order, which means if you are ordered to pay child support, your wages may automatically be garnished without any additional court action.

When it comes to child support and spousal support, wage garnishment limits are generally a lot higher compared to other types of debts. As much as 50% of your disposable income may be garnished in order to pay child support if you are supporting a child or spouse who is not the subject of the wage garnishment order. This amount may be raised to 60% of your disposable earnings if you have no other spouse or child to support. If you are required to pay for the health insurance coverage of your child, then the payment for insurance may also be deducted from your wages. The garnishment may also be raised by another 5% if you are at least 12 weeks behind on your obligations.

Overdue Income Taxes

Even without a court order, the federal government may choose to garnish your wages for as long as you owe back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. The amount that they can garnish depends on your standard deduction amount and the total number of dependents you have. Take note that local and state governments may also opt to garnish your wages in order to collect your unpaid taxes.

Student Loans

Even without a court order, the U.S. Department of Education or any agency collecting on its behalf may garnish your wages for as long as you are behind on your federal student loan payments.

Court Judgments

If you default on obligations such as medical bills or credit card bills, such creditors cannot automatically garnish your wages. Instead, they must sue you first, then successfully obtain a judgment and a court order before they are allowed to garnish your wages.

When a creditor succeeds in obtaining a court order, federal law limits the amount they can garnish to 25% of your disposable earnings or the total amount of your weekly wages over 30 times the minimum wages—whichever is lower.

If you have more than one wage garnishment order, then the total amount that can be garnished from your wages is limited to 25%. If, for instance, the federal government is garnishing 20% of your wages to pay off your overdue student loans, then your employer may only garnish another 5% of your income to the second creditor.

If you have one wage garnishment, federal law dictates that your employer cannot discharge you. If you have two or more wage garnishment orders, however, federal law will not protect you. In the state of Colorado, your employer cannot fire you despite the number of wage garnishment orders you have.

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