Wage Garnishment

Unfortunately, Washington is one of the states where creditors can take a portion of your wages after they’ve obtained a judgment. Different types of creditors can take different amounts of money from you.

  • The IRS can take a certain amount up to everything besides what they deem necessary for you to pay for basic living necessities (they don’t need a judgment).
  • Student loan creditors are capped at 15% (they don’t need a judgment).
  • Child support is limited to 50% (they already have an order).
  • Most everyone else can take up to 25% (but they need a judgment).

In this article, I’m going to talk about how much regular judgment creditors can take and what you can possibly do to stop the creditor from taking your wages.

As I mentioned above, a regular creditor who has a judgment against you can take up to 25% of your disposable earnings. That means that 75% of your wages are exempt. If you make less than 35 times the federal minimum wage, then all your weekly earnings are exempt. Currently, as of September 13, 2019, that would be less than $253.75 per week.

How does garnishment work in Washington?
Your employer is sent a document called “Writ of Garnishment, continuing lien on earnings,” along with a document called “Answer to Writ of Garnishment.” Your employer fills out the First Answer and returns it to the court with a copy to you and the creditor. From this point on, they withhold the non-exempt earnings for 60 days.

At the end of the 60-day withholding period, the employer is supposed to respond to a document called “Second Answer.” This document tells the creditor what non-exempt earnings were deducted during the 60-day period. The employer must complete the second answer and mail it to the court, the employee, and the creditor.

Next, the employer receives a document called “Judgment on Answer and Order to Pay.” This is the document that tells the employer who they are supposed to pay. Your employer should not have sent any money to the creditor prior to this, although this does happen.

A “Writ of Garnishment” under Washington Law allows a creditor a lien on your non-exempt earnings for 60-day periods. They can get additional writs for additional 60-day periods.

How can I stop the madness?
You can contact the creditor and try to work out payment arrangements that work better for you. You can hire an attorney to attempt the same, or even to look into the validity of the judgment in the first place.

You can also file for bankruptcy as long as you haven’t filed within the last 12 months. From the moment that your case is filed, your employer must cease taking your wages. If the amount that the garnishment creditor was able to take from your wages was greater than $600 in the 90 days prior to filing, the attorney may be able to get all of that money back. If your employer followed Washington law and is withholding the garnishment for the 60-day period, and if you file within the 60 days, you may get all of that money back. On the other hand, if your employer is out of state, or your employer uses an out of state or a national payroll company, then you may have to wait to get your garnishment returned.

Don’t Allow Garnishment to Continue
Don’t just let yourself be garnished. Garnishment ends up costing you more than the actual judgment amount. The judgment creditor gets 12% interest, plus fees and costs, and your employer can charge you $30 per round of garnishment.

If you’re living in western Washington and are being garnished, give us a call to see how we can help. If you end up filing bankruptcy through our firm, we pay for a program to help you rebuild your credit after bankruptcy.