Can they Garnish my Wages?

Recently, I’ve had several calls to my office about Garnishment of Wages, so perhaps a short article is in order. Wage Garnishment is a legal procedure in which a person’s earnings are required by court order to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt. The key to the preceding statement is the term “court order”. A garnishment of wages cannot occur without a judge agreeing to the garnishment. This means that some type of court action must occur. The creditor cannot merely attach or garnish your account without due process of law. In Pennsylvania, where I practice law, a Garnishment of Wages can occur only under limited circumstances. The most prevalent circumstance is for an obligation of child or spousal support. Garnishment is usually very easy to procure under those types of matters. Other circumstances where garnishment of wages can occur include repayment of PHEAA student loans, room and board for four weeks or less and obligations relating to a final divorce distribution. In PA, these are just about the only instances when your wages can be garnished while they are in the hands of your employer.

Many of the inquiries that I receive at my office are regarding credit card collections and garnishment of wages. Except under very limited or special circumstances, in Pennsylvania, an ordinary creditor cannot garnish your wages on a Pennsylvania case. This does not mean that the money that you earn cannot ever be garnished. There is a distinction here that must be made. Once the money is earned and deposited into your bank account, the monies are no longer wages. Those funds become part of the corpus of your bank account and are subject to garnishment. If a creditor is privy to your banking information AND if they have obtained a judgment against you, they will be able to garnish the funds in your bank account, even if those funds were at one time wages. This type of “regular” garnishment does not require a court order, but instead requires the creditor to obtain a judgment against you in a court of law. After a judgment is obtained, a creditor can commence garnishment proceedings by applying for a Writ of Execution. The Writ of Execution is delivered to your bank and your accounts are then frozen.

Greg Artim is an Attorney with offices located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more answers to your legal questions, please visit his website at

65 Responses

  1. I found this information to be very helpful and educational. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I look forward to you writing in the future.

  2. Must one be notified before a garnishment is made?

  3. Typically a letter is sent out prior to garnishment.

  4. No, that is incorrect. A letter is sent out after the garnishment is made, not prior.

  5. My husband had his wages garnished due to school loans. Before they garnished wages they must have left about 50 phone messages that he never responded to. I also never recalling a letter at all.

  6. Greg is correct a letter is typically sent out after the garnishment is made.

  7. My wages just got garnished and it sucks. Couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

  8. My boyfriend’s wages were garnished and he still hasn’t gotten a letter. I can’t see how this can be legal.

  9. Hi! Did your boyfriend receive calls from these scumbags (collectors)? Did he not answer them or make some sort of payment arrangements?thanks

  10. Can a Joint Bank Account (husband and Wife) or a Business Account be garnished?

  11. Dave- they will need a judgment order before they can garnish from your joint account and the other person whom is not in debt will have to show evidence or show proof of their money. My wife and I are going through a similar circumstance and we have recently just taken our names of each others accounts. To be on the safe side, if you are in deep debt, take your name off the joint account.

  12. BTW- here is something that I just found

  13. Thanks Aaron.
    I’m in the process of removing my name from the account. the court date is for 4/17/08 so the judgement is just around the corner…
    😦 I also have a business account which my name is on. Is that at risk?

  14. OH BTW..I’m in PA

  15. I’m not 100& sure. I did a little research on your behalf and this is what I found out the IRS can freeze your business account however I’m not sure if a regular creditor can get to your business. If you owe a lot of money and you have a big business account I would suggest you contact a lawyer. You could also call your local bar association if you didn’t want to talk to an attorney. I’m sure they would know the question regarding garnishing business accounts. My first thought would be they couldn’t go after the business account however they could go after the wages you pull from the account.

    I’m not a debtor or creditor attorney so I’m uncertain about that question.

  16. thanks again Aaron. I did contact a Lawyer here in PA and I’m going to the hearing to defend the suit. It turns out that they HAVE to proove alot to actually win. and I also found out that here in PA they cant touch a joint account unless a judgement is against both of us. The business account is still in question, however.

  17. Dave (from April 16th),
    Did this lawyer provide you with a copy of the law that says a joint account can’t be touched in the state of PA? Let me know if he/she did. How are things working out for you?

  18. A growing number of people are “working poor”. That means they work full time but live in relative poverty because of low pay and high costs of living. If someone like this is victimized by an IRS wage levy the effects can be devastating. Unfortunately the IRS won’t go away.

  19. Can someone help me. I had a credit card debt. they have already filed judgemnent and won. Now I get a letter saying they are garnishing my husbands bank account. My name is not on this account and never has been.
    His name was never on the credit card either..
    Letter say I have 5 days to contest this. Can they take his money since my name is not on the account nor his on debt?

  20. My employer recieved a notice from the sheriff that my pay is going to be garnished for a debt from 10 years ago that I did not know I owned. I was NEVER EVER notified and moved from the address they were serving paper to 10yrs ago. I cannot get anyone to help me. How can they do this if I was never giving the opportunity to pay what was owned. I was married then and was covered under my ex husband insurance when I had my daughter. I got an order of protection in the year 2000 and then had help moving me and my 4 children. I have never hidden, I have worked at the same employer and have bills under my name that they could of found me. I can’t have this happen. The original amount was $2400 and now it is almost 3x that amount and the lawyer will not even get on the phone. I will pay the $2400 if the insurance never paid. I don’t want this I am trying to repair my credit but I don’t have that kind of money. No one will help me. What can I do. Is it legal to do this if I was never notified? The secretary told me they served me last year at the address I have not lived at for 10yr and it was returned to them saying i did not live there. Please someone tell me what I can do.

  21. how long can a garishment be taking out . My husband wages have been garished for atleast 10 months this year.

  22. Can they obtain a judment to freeze your account if you are required to have direct deposit by your employer? If this is the case they will be able to stop me from gaining access to get money to fed not only my wife and I, but also my children…that doesnt seem right.

  23. I have a garnishment on my wages. The order says no more than 10% of gross salary when over 196.50, 25% of your disposable for that week, or the amount by which your disposable WEEKLY earnings exceed 196.50, whichever is least. Disposable earnings are defined as that portion of the earnings remaining after the deduction from the gross earnings of any amounts required by law to be withheld. In the event the disposable earnings are 196.50 or less, no amount shall be withheld.

    My paycheck comes twice a month…every two weeks. my last check grossed 286.00 and netted 260.00 before they garnished my pay for an additional 26.00.

    Being that I made 286 in two weeks, I only made 143 a week. Shouldn’t they NOT be garnishing anything? Is this legal? Should I file a complaint against them or something? Why SHOULD I do?? Or am I wrong somehow?

  24. I know how you guys feel .I just got a ganishment but i also i got a lawyer and did the counseling class for 50 bucks , remember with out that class your lawyer cant file for you to stop this mess.

    I didnt have the amount in my account for them to take anyways and right now there is a hold on both amounts .I wish i could give more insite but the best thing you all can do is GET A LAWYER!! PAY THE FILING FEE AND EXSPENSES.
    In Virginia i paid 874 bucks to get this mess stopped whick is taking place this week , that way by the time they get to my wages and have the hold on it 2 take the cash they wont touch any more because i wont put any more init, hopefully they wont take out any thing else after this way ,so far they got $32. 12 cents ,thats a whole better than 494 bucks that i owe, plus another one for 562 bucks and some change .

    good luck to all here and those out in the world .
    I wil pray 4 you all as i do anyways… only you and your lawyers can stand by and take the crap but god is great he wil see a way for us.

  25. It’s the first time I commented here and I should say that you share genuine, and quality information for other bloggers! Good job.
    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where did you find it?

  26. If I am being garnished for child support, can I be garnished as well for student loans at the same time???


  27. You should check the law on limit of time,10 years is a long time back.

  28. can my wages be garnished by a creditor . even though i pay 58% of my check before taxes in child support. i live in ohio.

  29. if u had a seatlment garnishment already go threw can they come back and do anyother garnishment because there not happy with the first one

  30. My husband got over his head in credit cards, he is now about to be garnished on one card. I most likely will be garnished on the 2nd card. My questions is what can I do to petition not to be garnished as I will probably loose my job if this happens. He is already paying money to the court on the first credit card. The same company is representing both credit cards

  31. the craziest wage with holdings ive ever had happen to me was at a job where one state was with holding child support for current and arrearages at 65 percent and i really was ok with that but shortly after that another state came and garnished almost the remaining of everything else which was also child support to give you an example i would make 300.00 dollars and the first state would leave me like 56.00 dollars but like two months later when the other state came along they took everything but 6.00 dollars so what happened is i worked for this employer for about 6 more months than was eventually fired, but think about it just when you think you can live on 55 dollars a wk along comes big brother and says try 6.00 bucks a week, i beleive the child support system commited a serious error but could less give a crap. needless to say i ended up getting a different job and right now they garnish 53 percent or so the other state for some reason tried to do the same thing again but never succeeded and i figured it out , some employers follow the federal guidelines for garnishments and will inform the gov or who ever it is that their are laws under certain curcumstanes for how much you are already being garnished and will not break those laws under no circumstances. so im happy all is well now but to better answer your question personally i have creditor judgements against me and have had for quite some time being that i pay so much in support as i see you do to the creditors have sent me letters indicating that they were going to be garnishing my wages on the following ck, and have never been able to personally this is been going on for such a while i really dont think its possibe i do feel bad i cant pay but what can you do when your paying so much as is hell i even owe financial aid money im not sure if ill be able to pay that before i drop dead if this out of control of child support doesnt stop any time soon with the interest that they impose on you,i hope this gives you some insight,

    take care

  32. I was never served any papers on a garnishment I received last friday in the mail from my job,I have looked up the procedures and so forth.My question is if you(I) don’t meet the requirements are they allowed to garnish me.If they take what the paper shows it leaves me with nothing to live on.Also this is a garnishment for a credit card,that I sent 3 payments for and they refused them because it was not what they wanted,but what I could afford to give them.So now they sent the papers to my job and they can not tell me how much this will be.I only work 26 hrs. a week.Which is 52 hrs. every 2 weeks and after the taxes leaves me just enough to pay rent and utilities,groceries which are not much.

  33. roxibaby48 “god is great?” are you christian? Christians don’t screw married men nor do they try to get out of what they owe to a company. You use god as a tool for your convenience. If you agreed to pay the money then DO THE RIGHT THING AND PAY IT simple as that. I find it appauling that people like you are allow to exist on this earth. Can you say …”.Dumb as a box of Rox?”

  34. You call yourself a christian you stupid human, you sound like the devil himself.
    Your going to burn 10 times over, A person teaching the word and casting hate will suffer thrice the pain.

  35. Question… if a lawsuit for a residential lease happened in Colorado, can they still garnish my wages in Pennsylvania where I reside? And no, just in case anyone asks, I hadn’t had my wages garnished when I lived in Colorado. It never got that far. I just received a letter stating they would pursue it further, even thouh their in Colorado.

  36. Jinx,
    No one is casting hate here, but the truth hurts for some. When you sign a promissary note to pay something then you should do so. I simply called roxibaby48 out because she put god in her blog. Using god as a shield only when it is convenient for you doesn’t make you a christian. christians don’t cheat and they certainly don’t go back on their word. If you can’t afford your bills, then make an arrangement to pay a smaller amount but don’t try to get over on companies because you were too stupid in getting yourself way over your head in debt. Roxibaby is an opportunist who wrecked my marriage and my family in order to profitt for herself. She uses men to help her financially, and does so without cause for her own conviction nor conscience of mind for the pain she causes others in her quest for self satisfaction. I dont’ teach the word I simply called her out on her blog about God. Nothing is more irritating than someone who pretends to be something they aren’t even close to being. Especially when it comes to pretending to be a christian.

  37. Not if you open up an LLC in Delaware and a corporate bank account in Delaware. Here is the information regarding that matter. They may be able to garnish your paycheck, but if you open a corporate account such as a LLC in Delaware and bank in that state, even if you don’t live there, if you set it up just right, no they can’t!

  38. Really great article – I was heading for a similar article which I will probably still write, but from a slightly different angle. Thanks for sharing this with your readers…I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates it.

  39. I’m really glad this information was posted. My huband is in debt for student loans. This has taken a load off my chest. I was worried about them taking my money as well as his.

  40. I loaned my niece 10k and she has only repaid 5k. Our contract (in writing) states that if she is more then three months deliquent thenshe is supposed to turn over the vehicle to me that she bought with then money. She has not paid me a cent in three years. Can I have her wages garnished>Hector

  41. my wages are being garnished after a loan that was pad off in 1994. The company went out of business and another company never sent me anything niether did the courts. they have been taking money since 2009. I called the courts they gave me the name and number of the company. I called and they said I owe 4,000.00 from 1994. they said the intrest rate is at 28% that makes it 16,000.00 until I pay it off. and the banks records don’t go that far back. and my ex-husband is on the loan but they are not takeing anything from him. 16 years ago can they still take my money?

  42. Can a creditor tell a coworker that your wages are being garnished? One of my creditors called and spoke to my coworker and asked for a nbr to have my name wages garnished. Is this legal?

  43. My wife and I have recently divorced. She owes me Approx. $1,000, and I made sure that was put in our divorce papers to be paid on June 15, 2010. Over the past year, we both had to file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. She is working for a well-known supermarket and collecting a wage. As luck would have it, two weeks ago I lost my job due to management restructuring. Based on what I told you, do I have any legal right to file for wage garnishment against her to have that debt paid to me?

  44. Ok, I need help. I’ve been working at the same job in Oregon for ~10years now. I just recently got married and the wife starts scanning over my online paystubs and sees an odd ‘3rd party pay’ on the paystub that I had never looked for or noticed. It turns out that I’ve been improperly garnished for child support in Texas for the last 10 years!!!

    Just about $24k has been garnished over this time. So I call the Texas Attorney General and discuss my case. They put a stop on the garnish, but tell me that too much time has passed to collect any of the money. Is this true? Is there a time limit I have to meet when I’m illegally garnished? What should my next course of action be?

  45. can the department of education garnish my wages even though i am paying?

  46. I was a plaintiff and won an judgment against a defendant who owes me $10,000. I got the writ of execution done by Sheriff dept. bank account found and frozen. Now going to court now because she is claiming the $ 300 exemption and “direct Deposit wage exemptions.This is Phila PA Court and I understand wage garnishment is limited in PA. But I understand that once the money is in her account, they are fair game? Am I correct?

  47. I just received papers for a civil case from a CC Co.
    Court is set for 1/26 – tried calling lawyer in ref to matter but respons. Just wondering from posting if a acct can be frozen if only in husbands Social. Called bank t seeabout having named removed from account. I am a stay at home mom w/5children and we live week to week on husband pay. What should I expect and what should I know before 1/26-planning on appearing.

  48. If you spent half the time and money you are expending trying to get out of paying what you owe, you wouldn’t owe anything.

  49. Can my wages be garnished if I am a stay at home mom? Only my husband is working but the bills are in my name only. Should I take my name off our joint checking account? If they can’t garnish wages, then what? I want to pay them off with our tax return, but that is still in January. Have not gotten any threats or anything yet, so I am just curious if they can garnish my husband’s wages for MY debt. Thanks!

  50. i have a garnishment on my pay from my late husband he died 8 years ago and he owed local city taxes that I thought we’re paid. The taxes are from 22 years ago. Never received anything about them until this garnishment appeared against his SS3 my wages

  51. I live in PA and work for a temp agency w an office in PA The agency pays me not the co they have placed me with which is in DE. Can my checkspaycheck be garnished. There is a judgement that was obtained in VA From 2003.

  52. I do light bookkeeping for a small retail shop in Texas. The owner of allows employees to purchase merchandise, to write down what they take and pay later. Recently one employee has gotten out of hand with the amounts that person owes and hasn’t made any attempt to “pay down” their balance, despite repeated requests. I’ve searched the internet, Texas Payday Law, etc. but I cannot find anything that specifically addresses “deducting purchases from an employee’s paycheck”. If an employee signs an authorization, can we do that, and does it matter if it drops the employee below an hourly minimum wage since we are deducting after taxes, etc? Thanks for any help.

  53. do they have to notify you and give you court date to go to before garnishing your wages or bank acct?
    also can they freeze the whole amt and leave you nothing

  54. You absolutely have a point there, I have never imagined it like it
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  59. I am currently going through a garnishment. Well I have tried to stop this. I had a contract with culligan. Come to find out my house was not equipped with pipes for the softener. I did not pay anyone to come in and install these pipes as I was renting the home. Well my ex boyfriend paid someone to come in and pipe the house. Well after we all moved out and went our seperate ways I find out culligan used my contract and changed the date on the contract. My ex called and had them install the water sofetner. Using my contract. I went to the court hearing but no one listened to me. I need to know what I can do. The collection agency and culligan refuse to help me. I can’t afford a lawyer to help me stop this.

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