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 Louisiana regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 21, 2021
If you fall behind on paying a debt, you can be sued by the creditor. If they get a court order for the money you owe them, they’ll take serious steps to collect that money, including garnishing your wages. A wage garnishment allows creditors to take money directly out of your paychecks until you’ve paid the debt off. To do this, they need to follow a specific legal process.
In this article, we’ll walk through what wage garnishment is, how it works in the Pelican State, and what limitations creditors have under Louisiana law.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment is a way that creditors collect money you owe them by having funds withheld directly from your paycheck. So how does this happen? Wage garnishments typically start when you owe a creditor money because you defaulted on a loan or you haven’t been paying credit card bills. To be able to garnish your wages, the creditor generally has to get a money judgment against you in court.
To get a judgment, the creditor will need to file a lawsuit against you for failing to make payments on the money you owe. They also have to notify you of the lawsuit. If you don’t show up to court, the court will automatically give the creditor a judgment against you. This is called a default judgment. Once the creditor has a judgment, they can start the process of getting a wage garnishment. Every state has its own wage garnishment rules and limitations that creditors must follow.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, the following entities can garnish your wages with a valid court judgment:
Creditors: Creditors, or original creditors, include your bank, a credit card company, or other entities that you borrowed money from.
Debt collectors: Debt collectors, or debt collection agencies, are hired by creditors to collect money for them. These agencies can also garnish your wages.
Debt buyers: When original creditors no longer want to try and collect on a debt, they often sell the debt to a debt buyer.
Other entities can collect on special types of debt without a judgment:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can garnish your wages to pay back taxes without a judgment using a wage levy.
Federal student loan servicers work with the Department of Education and can garnish your wages to collect on defaulted student loans without a judgment.
If you owe child support, the person who is owed the child support payments can garnish your wages.
The below sections focus on wage garnishment for non-special debts that can only happen after a judgment.
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Louisiana Wage Garnishment Process
In Louisiana, wage garnishment proceedings are governed by state law. To obtain a wage garnishment, the creditor must first file a lawsuit against you to get a judgment. The judgment gives the creditor the right to take collection actions against you, including wage garnishment.
Once the creditor has the judgment, they will need to file a garnishment petition and order with the court. This is sometimes called a garnishment order in other states. In Louisiana, it can be called a writ of fieri facias. The court will then sign the garnishment order, which officially names your employer as the garnishee and asks them to respond to garnishment interrogatories. These are questions about how much money you have available to pay the garnishment.
The creditor will need to serve the signed order and interrogatories on your employer. Once served, your employer then has 15 days to answer the interrogatories under oath and send it back to the court. The court will review the interrogatories provided by your employer and then issue an order called a Garnishment Judgment. This order will instruct your employer to begin taking money out of your paycheck to pay off the debt you owe to the creditor.
Additional court fees and interest on the debt may increase the total cost of the wage garnishment.
Objecting to a Wage Garnishment in Louisiana
First, it’s important to understand the difference between the money judgment against you and the wage garnishment. If the creditor wins the lawsuit against you for the amount of money owed, you may be able to appeal the judgment. If you didn’t show up to court and the judge issued a default judgment against you, it will be much harder to appeal the decision. Regardless, contact a lawyer to help you file an appeal. The deadlines for appeal in Louisiana are very strict, so it’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as the judgment is issued.
Generally, once the creditor gets a judgment against you, unless you appeal the judgment, there isn’t much you can do to contest the amount. Once the judgment is final and the creditor gets a wage garnishment, you usually can’t object to the garnishment itself. But under Louisiana law, the judge may reopen the case if you file a motion to present evidence “affecting the proper continuance” of the wage garnishment. This means you’re challenging whether or not the creditor can continue to garnish your wages.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
In Louisiana, wage garnishments can last as long as it takes to pay the money you owe back. Judgment creditors are limited in the total amount they can garnish and how much they can garnish from each paycheck. Creditors can only garnish the amount you owe according to the judgment. This can include fees and interest as well as the original debt. If the creditor claims that you owe them judicial interest, they must calculate the amount using the state’s Judicial Interest Calculator.
When it comes to the garnishment amount, Louisiana generally follows federal law. In Louisiana (and under federal law), creditors can only garnish the lesser of the following in any given workweek on a per paycheck basis:
25% of your weekly disposable earnings, or
The amount by which your weekly income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour). This amounts to $217.50.
In Louisiana, disposable earnings are defined as earnings left after all legally required deductions have been made for the pay period. These include income taxes and other deductions. The other 75% of your earnings and any other income that can’t be garnished by a creditor is considered exempt. In Louisiana, other exemptions include Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, and worker’s compensation, among others.
Wage Garnishment Example
Assume your weekly disposable income is $640. This is the amount you take home after all necessary deductions have been made. Under Louisiana law, a judgment creditor can garnish up to 25% of $640, or the amount by which $640 exceeds $217.50, whichever is less. Here’s how the pencils out:
$640 x .25 = $160
$640 - $217.50 = $ 422.50
In this case, the maximum a judgment creditor could garnish per weekly paycheck is $160.
Remember, this formula is for consumer debts. There are special rules, including different maximum garnishments, for special debts like federal back taxes, unpaid child support, or defaulted student loans.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Louisiana
There are generally only two ways to stop wage garnishment in Louisiana. You can either pay the amount you owe off, or you can file for bankruptcy.
If you decide to pay the full amount, you can do this by either paying a one-time lump sum, or you can allow the wage garnishment to continue until the full amount is paid. You can also try negotiating a payment plan directly with the lender that ends the wage garnishment.
If you decide to file for bankruptcy, you have two options: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will discharge most of your unsecured debts, including many debts that cause a wage garnishment. Chapter 13 bankruptcy, consolidates your debts into a single payment plan. Which one you choose will depend on your situation.
Not everyone qualifies for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Upsolve has a free online tool you can use to see if you qualify to file Chapter 7 without an attorney. If your bankruptcy case is more complicated, or you’d like to consult with a lawyer, Upsolve can also help you find a free consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Louisiana?
Several legal aid organizations in Louisiana provide legal services to qualifying individuals. To view a list of active legal aid organizations in Louisiana, visit the Louisiana Bar Association’s legal aid directory.
If you’d like self-help materials, you can either contact the court that issued the wage garnishment or you can contact the Louisiana Department of Revenue.