A wage garnishment order allows creditors to take money directly from your paycheck. Most of the time, this is only possible after a court has entered a judgment. Here's how Idaho regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 26, 2021
Wage garnishment is about as fun as a root canal without novocaine. Creditors such as credit card companies, debt collection agencies, or debt buyers may pursue wage garnishment if you don’t pay your debt with them. A wage garnishment is a court order that allows creditors to take money directly from your paycheck.
Federal law regulates wage garnishment and limits how much can be taken from your paycheck. Idaho wage garnishment laws also provide protections for people in the Gem State. If you’re facing wage garnishment in Idaho, this article will help you understand the process and how you can stop a garnishment.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment is one of the most effective tools in a creditor’s debt collection toolbox. A creditor must successfully sue you in Idaho district court before they can garnish your wages. If the creditor’s debt collection lawsuit is successful, the judge will grant them a money judgment. This allows them to take money directly from your paycheck. But Idaho state laws limit how much money they can take.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Idaho?
Any creditor, including a credit card company, debt collector, or debt buyer that gets a valid judgment in court can garnish your wages in Idaho. Once they get this judgment, they are referred to as the judgment creditor and you’re called the judgment debtor. At this point, the judgment creditor can proceed with the wage garnishment process. This is true whether you showed up at the trial to defend yourself and lost or you completely ignored the summons and the creditor got a default judgment. Once there is a valid wage garnishment order the judgment creditor has the right to garnish your wages.
That said, there are a few cases when your wages can be garnished without a court order. This applies to debts like unpaid income taxes, court-ordered child support payments and child support arrears, alimony and spousal support, and defaulted federal student loans. This article will focus on wage garnishments in Idaho that do require a court order.
Idaho Wage Garnishment Process
If a creditor wins a judgment against you and wants to proceed with a wage garnishment, there are still several steps they must follow. Here’s how the process goes:
Step 1: The Creditor Must Get a Writ of Execution From the Court
After the creditor sues you and successfully gets a court order, they must still get a writ of execution from the court before they can garnish your paycheck. The judgment creditor must file for a writ of execution, which instructs the local sheriff to take your money, personal property, income, or real estate.
Step 2: The Creditor Serves or Mails the Writ of Execution and Other Paperwork to You
After obtaining a writ of execution, the judgment creditor or the sheriff will serve or mail paperwork to the garnishee. If your wages will be taken, the garnishee will be your employer. Other times the garnishee is a bank where you have an account. This is called a bank levy. The paperwork served will include the writ of execution, a notice of garnishment, a notice if property or money has been seized, an exemption list, instructions, and the claim of exemption form.
As the judgment debtor, you’ll also be served with the same paperwork. Often, the garnishee will deliver the paperwork to you.
Step 3: You Have an Opportunity To Respond
Once the writ of execution, notice of garnishment, and other paperwork is served on you the clock starts ticking. You have 14 days to act. During that time, you can file a claim of exemption form showing that some of your income is exempt and can’t be garnished or you can object to the garnishment. You’ll also want to discuss financial hardship with the court at this time.
You may want to object if you believe that the creditor, sheriff, or garnishee didn’t properly follow the legal wage garnishment process. Other possible defenses include:
You didn’t receive proper notice.
There are jurisdictional issues like the creditor didn’t file in the right court.
The creditor made other errors or mistakes since receiving the court order from the debt collection lawsuit.
The judgment creditor has five days to make a motion to contest your claim of exemption. If they file a motion on time, there will be a hearing. At the hearing, you’ll both be allowed to testify and provide written evidence to support your objections and exemptions.
Step 4: The Garnishment Starts
If the judge hears your objections and exemptions and denies them, the wage garnishment can start. If the garnishee is your employer, they will then take a percentage of your earnings and pay that directly to the judgment creditor until the debt is paid off. Once the debt is satisfied, the judgment creditor must file paperwork and release the garnishee from this responsibility.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
Federal law limits how much of your paycheck can be taken by wage garnishment. Individual states are allowed to regulate the wage garnishment process. Some states have passed laws that are more favorable than the federal laws for those having their wages garnished. Idaho hasn’t passed any laws that prevent creditors from taking the maximum amount that federal law allows.
That means judgment creditors in Idaho can withhold 25% of your disposable earnings or the amount by which your disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage each week, whichever is less. Your disposable earnings are the amount you make after required deductions like taxes are taken out of your paycheck.
For example, say your disposable income is $500 a week. Working the formula, 25% of your weekly disposable earnings is $125. The federal hourly minimum wage ($7.25) multiplied by 30 is $217.50. Your disposable earnings exceed 30 times the minimum wage by $282.50 ($500 - $217.50). The lesser amount is $125, so that is the maximum amount your wages can be garnished each week.
Also, the total amount garnished from your paycheck can’t exceed the judgment, plus any fees, costs, or interest. Garnishment is limited by exemptions. Exemptions protect certain income sources and types of property. Generally, money you receive from Social Security income, pensions, veteran’s benefits, spousal support, child support, and life insurance are exempt from garnishment. Also, certain types of property, like your home is exempt.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Idaho
There are two main ways to stop a garnishment: Pay off the debt or get it discharged in bankruptcy.
Federal law prohibits employers from firing you if you have one wage garnishment. But if there is more than one creditor garnishing your wages, you could be in trouble. Federal law and Idaho law don’t have explicit provisions to protect employees from being terminated when they have multiple wage garnishments against them.
In that case, a fresh start probably sounds good, doesn’t it? Filing bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start, and it’s a great option for some people. When you file bankruptcy, the court will issue an automatic stay, which stops collection activities, including wage garnishment. Only Idaho state bankruptcy exemptions are available to bankruptcy debtors. Idahoans can’t use federal exemptions, which is allowed in some states.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Idaho?
If you’re facing wage garnishment it can be even more difficult to afford legal help. Luckily there are nonprofit legal aid serves available in Idaho that can help:
Upsolve’s list of legal aid organizations in Idaho