What is a wage garnishment?
A garnishment is a means of collecting a monetary judgment against a defendant by ordering a third party (the garnishee) to pay money, otherwise owed to the defendant, directly to the plaintiff. In the case of collecting for taxes, the law of a jurisdiction may allow for collection without a judgment or other court order.
The most common type of garnishment, is the process of deducting money from an employee's monetary compensation (including salary), sometimes as a result of a court order. Wage garnishments continue until the entire debt is paid or arrangements are made to pay off the debt.
Garnishments can be taken for any
type of debt but common examples of debt that result in garnishments include:
child support, defaulted student loans, taxes, unpaid court fines
New York State wage garnishment laws
establish a specific procedure that creditors must follow after they get a
judgment against a debtor in a court of law. Wage garnishment procedures and the
amount that can be garnished for private debts an individual owes to another
individual or business are very different than those governing garnishment
procedures when debt is owed to a governmental entity. For example, a debtor who
owes back taxes or is in arrears for child support payments may have more of his
income garnished. In these cases, a civil judgment against a debtor isn't even
needed. This article focuses strictly on New York state wage garnishment laws
that apply to private debt owed to creditors (e.g., a credit card company) by
Federal Garnishment Laws: New York State garnishment laws are subject to limitations in federal laws established to prevent creditors from over-extending their reach into a debtor's pocketbook. Federal law exempts 75 percent of a person's disposable weekly earnings from garnishment, or an amount that is equal to 30 times the minimum hourly wage--whichever is greater.
Laws in the state of New York permit
garnishment of either 10 percent of a debtor's gross weekly income or 25 percent
of his disposable weekly income, whichever amount is less. If a debtor's wages
are also subject to garnishment for alimony or child support, the combined
amount of garnishments cannot exceed 25 percent of the debtor's disposable
New York Garnishment Procedures
New York state laws differ slightly from those in other states in that they permit the judgment debtor to be served with a notice to garnish her wages before her employer is notified. Once a creditor gets a judgment in its favor, the creditor first delivers a notice of wage garnishment called an "income execution" to the debtor through a city marshal. The debtor has a 20-day grace period to make arrangements with a creditor to pay the judgment before her employer is notified of the garnishment. If the employer does garnish a debtor employee's wages, the marshal is required to notify the debtor intermittently as to how much of the judgment has been paid and how much debt remains.
What Income Cannot Be Garnished?
Only disposable income can be garnished in New York. This is the amount of weekly earnings the debtor takes home after deductions for federal income taxes, Social Security and unemployment insurance. Social Security and other benefits are exempt from debt collection and can never be used to pay off a private debt.
Pros and Cons of Wage Garnishment
Garnishing wages may be a sure way for creditors to collect money they are legitimately owed, but wage garnishment poses a risk to both creditor and debtor. While New York state law and federal law prohibits employers from firing a debtor employee because of a single judgment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, these protections do not apply when it comes to a second garnishment--or a third. Some employees who are unable to settle with the debtor before a garnishment is enforced may opt to quit a job rather than subject wages to garnishment. Also, a debtor may opt to declare bankruptcy to avoid the judgment altogether.