Are you facing wage garnishment, and don’t know what to do? Unfortunately, Washington is one of the states where creditors can take a portion of your wages after they have 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 to 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). Basically, everyone else can take up to 25% (but they need a judgment). This post is 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 2022 if you make under $253.75 per week, all your wages should be exempt.

How should garnishment go down 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. Starting from this point 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. In practice, employers send the funds off too soon quite frequently.

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?

If you are facing wage garnishment, you can contact the creditor and try to work out payment arrangements that are better than what the garnishment would take.

You can hire an attorney to attempt the same, or even to look into the validity of the judgment in the first place.

If you qualify, you can file for bankruptcy. So long as you aren’t barred from filing a bankruptcy due to previous filings within 12 months, then bankruptcy stops the garnishment. 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 $600.00 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 just let yourself be garnished. The way garnishment works out in practice is that you end up paying far more than the 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 are being garnished, are living in western Washington, and want someone to help, give us a call. If you’re facing wage garnishment, you don’t have to solve it alone. If you end up filing bankruptcy through our firm, we pay for a program to help you rebuild your credit after bankruptcy.