Wage Garnishment Can Cause Significant Financial Stress


Wage garnishment—a court-ordered withholding of some portion of income—can easily add more stress to an already stressful financial situation. An employer withholds the ordered amount and sends the withheld income to a specific person or institution that is owed money. This process continues until the debt is paid off.

A creditor must first obtain a court order before garnishing wages. In most situations, a creditor must file a case in court and win before it can begin garnishing a debtor’s wages.

In certain situations, a debtor may have wages garnished without lengthy litigation. Some examples include:

Cases involving child support. In child support cases, a court has already ordered an individual to pay a certain amount of money in support each month. In many instances, that order is sent directly to the debtor’s employer. A debtor who fails to make timely payments will fall into arrears, and the court may assess fines and penalties for the debtor’s failure to pay. You authorize the government to garnish wages by agreeing to the terms of the loan.

Defaulting on federal student loans. Student loans have become a common topic of conversation in recent years. The combination of both the economy and the exponential increase in the amount of loans students borrow has led to an increase in loan defaults. Federal student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and the federal government will garnish wages to recover its loan and interest payments.

Back taxes owed to the IRS. The IRS is authorized by law to garnish wages if a taxpayer owes back taxes.

The percentage of a debtor’s wages that may be garnished can vary. Wage garnishments are mandatory. Since the garnishment is withheld by the debtor’s employer, the debtor will receive smaller paychecks until the debt is paid off. This can force a debtor to make difficult financial decisions, and often further compounds a debtor’s existing financial issues.

Bankruptcy and Wage Garnishment

If you are experiencing financial stress as a result of wage garnishment, bankruptcy may help. First of all, when you file for bankruptcy, you immediately come under the protection of the automatic stay, which stops all collection activity—including wage garnishment. Furthermore, if the underlying debt obligation that caused your wages to be garnished is discharged in bankruptcy, there is not legal justification for the creditor to garnish your wages again at the conclusion of your case. Finally, in certain cases, you may get some of your garnished wages back from your creditor by filing a complaint in your bankruptcy case.


As a debtor, wage garnishments should not further complicate your financial situation. You should seek legal counsel if you are facing wage garnishments. A skilled attorney, such as Jory L. Trease at JTL Law, can review the facts of your case and help ensure that your wages are garnished fairly. Schedule your consultation by calling (801) 896-9444today or by sending us an email through our online contact form.