Wage garnishment can happen for a variety of reasons. If you owe taxes, support payments, court penalties or debt to creditors, the entities to whom you owe money may file to garnish your wages. What this means if the lawsuit for wage garnishment goes through, your regular paycheck will be significantly less than you expect.
The federal government limits the amount of money that can be garnished from each paycheck based both on how much you make and on how close you are to the poverty line. This is designed so that you can still pay for basic survival expenses even while being compelled to give up some of your wages to the person or entity to whom you are legally indebted. This is further dependent upon the purpose for your wage garnishment.
Standard Wage Garnishment Percent
The standard number for wage garnishment is 25 percent of your disposable earnings. This amount is split up to pay all of your debts from court judgments, alimony payments and creditors. For individuals with lower incomes, wages will be garnished by the amount of money by which your total earnings are greater than 30 times the minimum wage in your state.
What this essentially means is that you will always be allowed to keep 30 hours of minimum wage earnings no matter how much you owe to any other entity. Different states have different laws regarding wage garnishment, and it is recommended that you visit your state's department of justice for more information.
Other Wage Garnishment Percentages
In addition to the standard 25 percent of wage garnishment you will receive for most debts and court orders, there are other percentages for different flavors of judgment against you.
For child support payments, you are required to pay a minimum of 50 percent to your spouse for use in paying for the child's needs. This number goes up to 60 percent if you are not currently supporting a child or spouse outside of the agreement. If you are late in paying your child support, a total of 65 percent of your income may be garnished. This is again weighed against the 30 times the minimum wage requirement, so you will always at least keep 30 hours of minimum wage.
If you owe back taxes, the federal and state governments may also garnish your wages by a variable amount depending on your number of dependents and standard or itemized deductions.