The Law Office of Paul Mankin

Can a Debt Collector Garnish My Wages?

Has a debt collector or creditor threatened to garnish your wages? While there are situations where a collector can garnish your wages, they must first follow the proper procedure, and there are some federal benefits that generally cannot garnished. These include Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Veterans benefits. Some state benefits may also be excluded from garnishment by state law. You should check with an attorney in your state to determine if your state benefits are subject to garnishment.

Federal Benefits that Generally Cannot be Garnished

Federal benefits that are generally exempt from garnishment include:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
  • Veterans’ Benefits
  • Student Assistance
  • Compensation for Injury, Death, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors Outside the U.S.
  • Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance.
  • Railroad Retirement Benefits
  • Merchant Seamen Wages
  • Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits

When Federal Benefits May be Garnished

If the debt you owe is to a government agency, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for federal taxes, or for a domestic support obligation, such as child support or alimony (known as spousal support in some states), then these federal benefits may be subject to garnishment.

What is the Procedure for Garnishing Wages?

Most creditors must file a lawsuit, obtain a judgment, and then ask the court for a garnishment order before they can begin garnishing a consumer’s wages. Government agencies however, may be able to bypass some of the procedural rules and garnish your wages by simply issuing a notice.  If a debt collector is threatening you with wage garnishment and it does not have a judgment against you, it has most likely committed an FDCPA violation.

What Should I do if a Debt Collector Tries to Garnish My Wages or Benefits

If a lawsuit has been filed against you be sure that you follow the instructions on the Notice or Summons and respond within the time allowed. You should also attend all Court hearings. While you may not be able to stop a legitimate collector from obtaining a judgment against you, you will at least be able to present any evidence that you have regarding the amount owed, if the amount is in dispute, and you will be aware of the status of the proceedings and any attempts the collector makes to garnish your wages. If you receive state or federal benefits and have been sued or receive a notice of garnishment, you should consult an attorney to assist you in determining if your benefits are exempt from garnishment and help ensure that if they are, no garnishment order is issued.

If you have been sued by a debt collector or creditor or received a notice of garnishment, please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.