Understanding Wage Garnishment and Your Options

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What Is Wage Garnishment? 

Wage garnishment is a legal process requiring an employer to withhold a portion of a person's earned wages to repay a “judgment creditor.” A "judgment creditor" is someone who won a lawsuit against the employee. The employee is known as a "judgment debtor."

What Can Be Garnished?

The judgment debtor's earnings can be garnished, including:

  • wages
  • salary
  • commissions
  • bonuses
  • periodic pension and retirement benefit payments

Money received through gifts, child support, life insurance proceeds or income tax refunds is not"earnings" and cannot be garnished. The law is unclear whether money earned by independentcontractors is considered "earnings."

When calculating the amount of money subject to garnishment, only "disposable earnings" areconsidered. "Disposable earnings" is the part of a person's income after deductions required by law. "Deductions required by law" include wages withheld for taxes, social security and unemployment insurance but do not include garnishments. 

Read more about wage garnishment in this publication.