An Overview of Wage Garnishment in Utah

Wage garnishment is a powerful tool that your creditors have to force you to pay your bills. However, it does have its limitations and can be avoided completely.If you are delinquent on your bills, you may have heard that wage garnishment is one of the ways that your creditors can force you to repay them. However, you may not be certain how the process actually works. Having a basic understanding of garnishment as well as its limitations is important in understanding your options if you are ever faced with this situation.

Garnishment In Utah

Wage garnishment (or wage attachment) is an order from a court that is directed toward your employer. It requires your employer to take out a portion of your wages and send it to your creditor in order to be applied toward your delinquent debt.

In Utah, like all other states, garnishment cannot usually happen out of the blue. In order to get the garnishment order, your creditor must first sue you for the debt and obtain a judgment. Once the court has granted the creditor a judgment, the creditor may execute it by asking the court to garnish your wages.

Although you cannot be garnished without your creditor obtaining a judgment in a majority of cases, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you owe child support, student loans or income taxes, your wages can be garnished without a judgment.

Limitations On garnishment

Although a creditor with a judgment can take a portion of your wages, he or she cannot take all of them. Both federal and Utah law sets limit on the amount that may be garnished, to ensure that you have enough left over to live on. Under Utah law, the maximum amount that a creditor may garnish is:

  • 25 percent of your weekly disposable earnings — what is left over after taxes and other deductions have been taken out; or
  • The amount that your weekly disposable earnings exceed the federal minimum wage by 30 times

The law also limits the amount of wages that may be garnished, if more than one creditor is garnishing you at a time. Under the law, only 25 percent of your wages may be garnished, regardless of the number of creditors.

Depending on the type of debt that you owe, there are exceptions to these limitations. For example, up to 60 percent of your wages can be taken if you owe back child support.

Dealing With garnishment

If you are faced with garnishment, you may be able to avoid the process by working out a repayment plan with your creditor. However, this is not a viable solution if you cannot afford the debt or if the creditor refuses to work with you. In such cases, bankruptcy may be the best way of stopping garnishment.

Once you file bankruptcy, your creditors must cease all collection activities, including garnishment. Depending on the type of bankruptcy that you file, your debt is either wiped out or repaid over a period of three to five years. Once you have completed bankruptcy in either case, you are free of most debt subject to garnishment and can start over again financially.

If you are struggling with your finances and face the threat of a lawsuit or garnishment, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can explain your options and help you get the relief from your burdensome debt that you are entitled to by law.