How is it that collection agencies can garnish bank accountsand paychecks, leaving 20% of income?

UPDATED: Sep 25, 2010

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How is it that collection agencies can garnish bank accountsand paychecks, leaving 20% of income?

A friend got in serious financial trouble and wants to declare bankruptcy. The garnishments leave $200 a month to live on – not near enough to hire an attorney to help. The latest garnishment will take an additional (unknown) percentage of what’s left. How can this be legal, and how can she attempt to get out of this hole?

Asked on September 25, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Nebraska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

First, all states limit the amount of garnishment. While it does vary by state, the most common amount is to limit the total of ALL garnishments to no more than 25% of disposable wages--with the exception that for child support (and, I think, alimony), taxes, and student loans, the garnishment can be pushed higher, though still to no more than around 50, maybe 60%, of disposable wages. If your friend is being garnished more than this, something is being done wrong--maybe, for example, the court in later garnishments was not made aware of already-existing ones, so they did not take those earlier ones into account when setting the later garnishments.

Your friend should try contacting legal services or legal aid if she can't afford an attorney--they may be able to help her. If the garnishments are not child support, aliminy, taxes, etc., the most she should be garnished is around 20% total.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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