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Wage Garnishment In Maryland

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In a Nutshell

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 Maryland regulates wage garnishments.

Written by Upsolve Team
Updated October 21, 2021

When you’re already working hard to keep your head above water financially, dealing with a wage garnishment can feel like trying to swim across the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately, you have rights and options when a creditor garnishes your wages. This article covers what garnishment is, what to expect from the wage garnishment process, and what to do if your wages are garnished. We’ll also look at Maryland’s rules for who can garnish your check and how much they can take. 

What Is Wage Garnishment?

If you owe debts, such as credit card debt or medical bills, wage garnishment is one way that creditors can attempt to collect the money you owe. Most creditors must first sue you and get a judgment against you to garnish your wages. Then, the court orders your employer to take some money out of each of your paychecks to pay the debt. State and federal laws limit how much your employer must withhold from each check. The garnishment lasts until the entire debt is paid.

Who Can Garnish My Wages In Maryland?

State law requires most creditors to get a court judgment against you before they can garnish your wages. To get a judgment in Maryland, a creditor must file a lawsuit against you, serve you with notice of the lawsuit, and provide the judge with enough evidence to prove that you owe the creditor a debt. The original creditor doesn’t necessarily have to be the creditor that files the lawsuit. Debt buyers and debt collectors can also sue you and get a money judgment against you. 

Ignoring a lawsuit isn’t enough to stop a judgment. If you don’t respond, the creditor can get a default judgment for the debt amount. When a creditor has a judgment against you, the creditor is sometimes called the judgment creditor and you are sometimes called the judgment debtor.

Any creditor with a judgment against you can begin the garnishment process. In addition, for a few types of debts, creditors can garnish your wages without getting a judgment. These debts include tax debts owed to the IRS or the state of Maryland, defaulted federal student loans, and child support obligations. These kinds of debts have their own collection rules and aren’t subject to Maryland’s ordinary garnishment procedures and limits. Although these special debt categories are common sources of wage garnishments, this article focuses on the standard garnishment rules that apply to most Maryland creditors.

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Maryland Wage Garnishment Process 

To start a wage garnishment, a creditor with a judgment against you files a Request for Writ of Garnishment of Wages with the court and sends you a copy. The court issues the writ, and the creditor delivers it to your employer (sometimes called the garnishee). The writ contains information about the garnishment as well as questions about things like your job status, how often you get paid, and how much money you make.

Your employer must answer the questions in the writ of garnishment within 30 days and file the answers with the court. If you have an objection to the garnishment, you must file a motion with the court within that same 30-day period. At this point, you can’t legally claim that you don’t owe the underlying debt, but you may object if there is a mistake in the paperwork or if you’ve already paid some or all of the judgment balance. 

If you believe some of your wages are exempt from garnishment, you can claim the exemption as part of your objection. Although they rarely apply to wage garnishments, the state of Maryland has exemption laws to protect you and your property. Certain types of income are also exempt under state and federal laws.

The garnishment typically continues until the debt is paid in full. Maryland law requires the creditor to send you a Judgment Creditor’s Report each month throughout the garnishment showing how your payments have been applied. If the creditor fails to provide the reports, you can file a motion to dismiss the garnishment.

How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?

Maryland's wage garnishment laws say that the amount a creditor can take from your weekly earnings is whichever of these two amounts is less:

  • 25% of your weekly disposable earnings; or

  • (Your weekly disposable earnings) minus (Maryland’s minimum hourly wage, multiplied by 30).

Maryland’s current hourly minimum wage is $11.75 for employers with at least 15 employees and $11.60 for employers with 14 or fewer employees. 

Maryland defines disposable earnings as your gross pay, minus:

  • Federal and state income taxes;

  • Payroll taxes, Social Security, and Medicare costs;

  • Court-ordered deductions for alimony or child support payments, including deductions for any insurance required as part of a divorce order;

  • Any other deductions required by statute, rule, or order; and

  • Any deductions for medical insurance.

The total amount taken during the garnishment can’t be more than the amount of the judgment, plus court costs and interest. 

How To Stop a Garnishment in Maryland

Technically, you could negotiate some other payment plan with the creditor. Once the creditor has a judgment and a garnishment order against you, though, you don’t have much bargaining power. If you have access to some cash, your best chance of success is to offer the creditor a lump sum payment for half or more of the judgment amount. This might be more attractive to a creditor than receiving small payments over a long period through garnishment.

If you have the money, you can stop the garnishment by paying off the debt early. You can also allow the garnishment to continue until the debt is paid. Filing bankruptcy is another way to stop wage garnishment. For complex scenarios involving large debts or a lot of assets, you’ll likely want to speak to a bankruptcy attorney. If your case isn’t complicated, or if you can’t afford a bankruptcy lawyer, you may be able to file your own bankruptcy. If you qualify, Upsolve can help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy for free.

Are There Any Resources For People Facing Wage Garnishment In Maryland?

If you need more information, a Maryland attorney may be able to help you choose the right way to proceed. Of course, when your wages are being garnished, it can be difficult to afford attorney’s fees. Maryland is home to several legal aid organizations that can assist you at little or no cost. Here are some of the legal aid options available in Maryland:

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