Garnishment

Updated January 2017   Fact Sheet PDF


Introduction

If you do not pay a debt, then a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.

 

Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Do not ignore a lawsuit summons. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage garnishment.

 

How Long Garnishments Last

Wage garnishments will continue until the debt is fully paid or until the job ends. Garnishments on bank or other financial accounts last from the time the bank or other financial institution receives the writ of garnishment to the time they file an accurate response to the writ. Garnishment on the bank or other financial account must be renewed every time the creditor wants to garnish additional money.

 

A Judgment only lasts for 10 years unless, according to the Arkansas Supreme Court, the creditor files a post-judgment writ, which then re-news the 10-year period. Traditionally, if a creditor wishes to re-new the original judgment, he must petition the court for a revival of the judgment. The creditor must send a “writ of scire facias” by, at the very minimum, first-class mail to your last known address, advising you that the creditor is petitioning the court to revive the judgment. However, if the creditor cannot find you, they may be able to serve you by publishing the “writ of scire facias” in a local newspaper. You have thirty days to object to the revival of the judgment. If you do not object within this time frame, the judgment will be renewed for another 10 years.

 

Amounts

Under the Consumer Credit Protection Act, the maximum amount allowed to be garnished from disposable earning income may NOT exceed 25%. Therefore, in order for wages to be garnished, you must make 30% of minimum wage for a 40-hour week. Following is a chart which indicates the disposable income which may be garnished. Disposable income = gross wages – federal and state income and payroll taxes.

 

Weekly

Biweekly

Semimonthly

Monthly

If you earn $217.50 weekly or less, no wages may be garnished.

If you earn $435.00 biweekly or less, no wages may be garnished.

If you earn $471.25 semimonthly or less, no wages may be garnished.

If you earn $942.50 or less, no wages may be garnished.

If you earn more than $217.50 but less than $290.00, any amount above $217.50 may be garnished.

If you earn more than $435.00 but less than $580.00, any amount above $435.50 may be garnished.

If you earn more than $471.25 but less than $628.33, any amount above $471.25 may be garnished.

If you earn more than $942.5 but less than $1256.66, any amount above $942.50 may be garnished.

If you earn more than $290.00, the maximum amount that can be garnished is 25% of your disposable income.

If you earn more than $580.00, the maximum amount that can be garnished is 25% of your disposable income.

If you earn more than $628.33, the maximum amount that can be garnished is 25% of your disposable income.

If you earn more than $1256.66, the maximum amount that can be garnished is 25% of your disposable income.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Support Exceptions

If you are ordered to provide child or spousal support, the maximum amount of your disposable earnings that can be garnished is 50% or 55%. Which percentage is subject to garnishment depends on how far behind you are in paying court-ordered support. If you do not have a second family, the maximum amount of your disposable earnings that can be garnished increases to 60% or 65%.

 

Taking from Bank Accounts

How much a creditor can take from your bank account depends. For example, a garnishment may take all the money in a savings or checking account with your name on it, even if this causes checks to bounce. But federal and Arkansas state laws allow you to exempt certain items from garnishments and executions. Exemptions are complicated. You should consult an attorney to see if you qualify.

 

Federal Benefit Exemptions

Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:

  • Social Security benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
  • veterans’ benefits
  • civil service and federal retirement and disability benefits
  • military annuities and survivors’ benefits
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) federal disaster assistance
 

Federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans.

 

Claiming Exemptions

It depends. Multiple rules apply to responding to writs of garnishments and wage garnishments. The process also varies depending on whether you are claiming state or federal exemptions. Exemptions are complicated and require a notarized affidavit listing all of your property in detail. You should consult an attorney to see if you qualify.

 

This fact sheet is a collaboration of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc. These nonprofit organizations provide free legal assistance to eligible Arkansans who meet income, asset, and other guidelines. Legal assistance may also include advice and counsel, brief services, or full representation depending on the situation. For more information about civil legal aid in Arkansas, please visit arlegalservices.org. For information specific to Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc., visit arlegalaid.org. Apply for services online or by calling 1-800-9-LAW-AID (1-800-952-9243).
The information and statements of law in this fact sheet should not be considered legal advice. This fact sheet is provided as a broad guide to help you understand how certain legal matters are handled in general. Courts may interpret the law differently. Before you take action, talk to an attorney and follow his or her advice. Always do what the court tells you to do.
Content provided by: Center for Arkansas Legal Services

 

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