If My Wages Are Garnished, How Much Can The Creditor Take And Can Bankruptcy Stop It?

Garnishing Wages in Washington

Under Washington law, a creditor garnishing wages can take only a certain amount of your net (“take home”) wages; they cannot take it all.  Generally, the most they can take is 25% of your net pay, but they have to leave you with at least 35 times the federal minimum wage ($7.25) for each week – which equals $253.75 per week or about $1,100 a month.   RCW 6.15.020.  This is the minimum you can protect/exempt from a garnishing creditor.    Working the two rules together, the garnishing creditor can take 25% of your net (“take home”) pay as long as doing so would not leave you with less than the minimum protected figure.

Garnishment Examples

A few examples might help.

1.  NET WEEKLY CHECK: You earn $250 a week (net).  RULE:  The creditor can take 25% of your pay as long as that does not leave you with less than the minimum of $253.75. RESULT:  They get zero.

25% of $250 is $62.50.  So, they can take $62.50 as long as you are left with at least the minimum amount. Your check is already below the minimum $253.75.   Thus, they get zero.

2.  NET WEEKLY CHECK: You earn $300 a week (net).  RULE:  The creditor can take 25% of your pay as long as that does not leave you with less than the minimum of $253.75. RESULT:  They can take $46.25 (< 25%)

25% of $300 is $75.  So, they can take 25%/$75 as long as you are left with at least the minimum amount.

If they take $75, you have $225 left over from your original $300 net.  BUT $225 is less than the minimum protected for a week of $253.75 above.  Therefore,  the creditor cannot take the entire 25%; they can only take the amount that leaves you with at least $253.75.  If you start with $300 and you get the minimum $253.75, then they get the remaining $46.25 (so, they do not get the full 25%).

3.  NET WEEKLY CHECK: You earn $350 a week (net).  RULE:  The creditor can take 25% of your pay as long as that does not leave you with less than the minimum of $253.75.  RESULT:  They can take $87.75 (full 25%).

25% of $350 is $87.50.  So, they can take $87.50 as long as you are left with at least the minimum amount.

If they take $87.50 you have $262.50 left over from your original $350 net.  $262.50 is more than the minimum protected for a week of $253.75 above.  Therefore, the creditor can take the full 25% of $87.50 because taking this amounts still leave you with at least the minimum.

4.  NET WEEKLY CHECK: If you make more than $338.33 (net) a week, they get the full 25% every time.   So, if you get $1,000 a week, they can garnish $250 each week or more than a $1,000 a month.

NOTE: The rules change for garnishments to recover past due child support or spousal maintenance.  In that case, the creditor can garnish 50% of the net wages.

How Long Does a Wage Garnishment Last?

Wage garnishments are described as a “continuing lien” on earnings.   Wage garnishments “continue” for a period of 60 days from the effective date of the writ.  RCW 6.27.350.  Basically, you can be garnished for two months.  If the creditor wants to garnish after that, they would have to get and serve a new Writ of Garnishment – which would also last for 60 days.  And so on until the debt is paid.

Filing Bankruptcy Stops Garnishment

Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates an injunction against wage garnishment.  The injunction is the “automatic stay” of 11 USC § 362.  Simply, filing stops a garnishment.    But the lien on the earnings created by the service of the writ remains.  However, most garnishing creditors will agree to release the lien (and you’ll get your full check).

Get Your Money Back

As it turns out, filing bankruptcy at the right time may allow you to get some or all of your money back from the garnishing creditor.    Simply, if you have more than $600 garnished in the 90 days prior to filing, that likely creates a “preference” under 11 USC § 547.    In short, that means you can ask the creditor to return the more than $600 taken in that period if the Chapter 7 Trustee does not want the money (and they normally don’t).    If you have had $599 garnished in the 90 days before filing, you can’t get any back.  If you waited to file until after the next wage garnishment and it put you over $600 for the preceding 90 days, then you would get garnished funds back.  Yes, we can help you get the money back. 

Free Initial Consult

If you are being garnished or are concerned you might be garnished, give us a call and we’ll help you with your options.

 

 

 

 


The Statute – RCW 6.27.150

If you want to see the actual statute that says how much can be taken, here it is.

RCW 6.27.150 Exemption of earnings — Amount.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, if the garnishee is an employer owing the defendant earnings, then for each week of such earnings, an amount shall be exempt from garnishment which is the greatest of the following:

(a) Thirty-five times the federal minimum hourly wage in effect at the time the earnings are payable; or

(b) Seventy-five percent of the disposable earnings of the defendant.

(2) In the case of a garnishment based on a judgment or other order for child support or court order for spousal maintenance, other than a mandatory wage assignment order pursuant to chapter 26.18 RCW, or a mandatory assignment of retirement benefits pursuant to chapter 41.50 RCW, the exemption shall be fifty percent of the disposable earnings of the defendant.

(3) The exemptions stated in this section shall apply whether such earnings are paid, or are to be paid, weekly, monthly, or at other intervals, and whether earnings are due the defendant for one week, a portion thereof, or for a longer period.

(4) Unless directed otherwise by the court, the garnishee shall determine and deduct exempt amounts under this section as directed in the writ of garnishment and answer, and shall pay these amounts to the defendant.

(5) No money due or earned as earnings as defined in RCW 6.27.010 shall be exempt from garnishment under the provisions of RCW 6.15.010, as now or hereafter amended.

 

Comments

  1. Sue Ann says:

    They are going to garnish my wages. I get paid every two weeks my bring home pay is 523.00 how much can they take?

    • If you are garnished in Washington, you should be able to keep $507.50 per biweekly check, at a minimum. So, it appears they can take $22.50 from your check. I’ll note that is you adjust your taxes so an additional $23.50 gets set aside for federal taxes, then they get nothing (and you will get a larger refund at the end of the year).

  2. I live in Iowa they are going to start garnishing my wages… I get paid every two weeks at 9.75 an hour how much can they take

  3. barbara keeling says:

    my husband is being garnished by the state of michigan and a past credit card is that going to be a wekly thing also i think we need to file bankruptcy we just plain help

  4. I live in Washington and I bring home roughly $1300 biweekly. How much are they able to garnish?

  5. I live in Ohio and I have been under a garnishment for over a year now and on July 15th 2015 I asked for a balance and was told by the lawyer garnishing my wages it was $1,375.00 and seemed to me about right. Im being garnished at 46.00 bucks a week and have also paid extra via personal check (75 bucks). but now 14 pay cycles later he says I still owe about 1,000 dollars. There has been no additional fees added to this judgement. What can I do if I disagree with the balance due in this case? My estimate is about 675.00, far cry from his.

    • In theory, you have received a copy of each Writ of Garnishment served on your employer. That likely states the then-current balance due and the fees and costs added to the balance. You can just create a spreadsheet that has a starting balance and an ending balance and see what you get. Make sure you add tot he part you pay all the fees and costs for the attorney preparing and serving the writ. You also may have a local legal aid office. If you income is low enough, you might qualify for a review. Finally, the creditor might just give you an accounting of how they arrive at their balance. Goof luck!

  6. Hi ,
    I live in Illinois i make 1392.83 biweekly i have 3 wage garnishments how much can they take out of my check for each one?

  7. Do they take 15% for each one or 25% for all three of them?

  8. Sherry McDonald says:

    How many years can they garnish you in washington state. It’s been ongoing for 3 years now and the debt is not getting lower!

    • They can keep garnishing you until the judgment is paid in full or the judgment is no longer enforceable. (In WA judgments are good for 10 years and can be renewed for another ten years if not paid in full.)

  9. Is it possible to have a wage assignment set after a garnishment has taken place? In the last 30 days over $900 have been garnished.

  10. I get paid 975$ biweekly and someone garnished 599$ if it

    • I cannot see how that is a correct amount. At most, a child/spousal support can garnish 50% of net (take home) pay. You amount is more than that. You might ask you employer how the heck they figured that out given the instructions that accompany the garnishment form they received.

    • I can’t see how that is the right amount. Normally, the limit is 25% of the net, but as much as 50% for garnishments on past-due child support. Your garnishment is more than 60%. I highly doubt that is correct. Sometimes employers fill out the forms wrong. So, you might ask a local attorney or legal aid office if they did it correctly.

  11. Is it true i can only be garnishment for 350 biweekly for a 11 year old medical bill and its putting me in a hardship

    • It all depends on what your particular state’s laws provide. Many that I am aware of allow such a creditor to take 25% of your take home pay as long as you are left with at least about $1,100 net a month. But your state law may vary.

  12. Tasha Long says:

    In Washington St. How After the 60days they don’t take anymore money for another 60days… so they give you a break to catch up on bill ect.?

    • In Washington, a wage garnishment (other than for child support or spousal maintenance) is good for 60 days. After that, it end and the creditor, if still owed money, has to send a new wage garnishment to the employer. It normally takes at least 30 days for the new one to be issued, but it could be longer. Any new wage garnishment served is good for another 60 days. And so on. NOTE: If you file bankruptcy within 90 days of being garnished more that a total of $600, then you can get the garnished funds back. 🙂

  13. Clenzel Potts says:

    If i made $527 can child support take 298.74 im in California and leave me with 183

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