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 Minnesota regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 21, 2021
If you have debt and you’re collecting a paycheck in Minnesota, your wages can be garnished to collect on that debt. A wage garnishment will make it harder to pay your bills or travel to Minneapolis or St. Paul for shopping or medical appointments. This article will teach you the basics of wage garnishment in Minnesota. Keep reading to learn what wage garnishment is and how the process works in the North Star State. We’ll even give you some tips on how to manage a wage garnishment and what you can do to stop a wage garnishment.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment — also called wage attachment — is a process creditors use to collect past-due debt by taking money directly from your paycheck. Though they usually need to sue you and get a court order before they can do this. Wage garnishment is used to collect consumer debt like credit card debt, back rent, personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, medical debt, and payday loans. The amount creditors can have withheld from your paycheck is limited by federal and state laws.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Minnesota?
As long as a creditor, debt collector, or debt buyer has a judgment from the court, they can garnish your wages. It’s possible to have multiple judgments garnishing your wages, but there are limits. Some types of debt follow special laws. This includes IRS debt, federal student loan debt, and child support, which don’t require court orders for wage garnishment. This article is focused on consumer debt in Minnesota that results in a court judgment for wage garnishment.
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Minnesota Wage Garnishment Process
In Minnesota, a creditor must get a court order with a judgment to garnish your wages. To get a court order, the creditor must sue you. Here are the steps in the process:
The creditor files a lawsuit. The process starts with the creditor serving and filing with the court a civil summons and complaint. The rules of the process are covered in the Rules of Civil Procedure for Minnesota. The creditor is called the judgment creditor and the person owing money is called the judgment debtor.
You must respond within 21 days. Once you’re served with the summons and complaint, you must respond with an answer within 21 days. You may want to get legal advice from an attorney at this point.
There’s a court hearing. The summons and complaint will include instructions and a date for a court hearing. If you don’t show up in court and don’t answer the complaint, the judge will likely rule in the creditor’s favor and grant them a default judgment.
You can raise objections or defenses. You can object to the claims made in the complaint by stating in your answer that the debt is not yours, that the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, that the amounts are wrong, or that you are exempt from garnishment.
The judge makes a decision. On the court date, the judge will review the case and make a decision, which is put in a court order. If the judge decides in the creditor’s favor, the court order will include a judgment that gives the creditor permission to collect the past-due debt, including interest and fees.
After this court order and judgment are made, the creditor can request a garnishment order. Garnishments can be for wages or bank accounts. Laws governing Minnesota garnishments are addressed in Section 571.72 of the Minnesota Statutes. Once the creditor gets a garnishment order, they can garnish your wages within 10 days.
You are served (again) and can request a court hearing. Minnesota law requires that you are served with the garnishment notice. This notice is a Notice of Intent to Garnish Earnings. At this point, you have the opportunity to request a court hearing and fill out an exemption notice stating that you are exempt from garnishment.
The creditor will send a garnishment summons to your employer (the garnishee) by certified mail. Your employer has to answer questions about your earnings. They then serve you and the creditor with a Garnishment Earnings Disclosure outlining your pay and pay periods. Within 90 days of receiving the garnishment summons, your employer must also give you notice of the garnishment within 10 days of the last payday to occur during that time. You’ll receive a copy of the garnishment order by mail.
Your wages are garnished. After this process, your employer will keep a portion of your paycheck and give it to the clerk or creditor to pay off your debt.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
A creditor can never take more than the judgment amount listed in the court order. The judgment amount will include the amount of debt plus fees, costs, and interest.
The laws are generally formed to make sure you have money to survive, despite the garnishment. Federal and state laws describe what wages are exempt from garnishment and set limits on how much of your paycheck can be garnished. When determining limits, the formulas start with your disposable income. This is the income in your paycheck after your employer takes out legally required deductions like Social Security and payroll taxes. If there’s a conflict between state and federal law, the law with the lesser garnishment amount (which works in your favor) is used.
Under federal law, if your disposable earnings are less than $217.50 per week, which is 30 times the current federal minimum wage, your wages can’t be garnished because they are exempt. If your wages exceed this amount, the maximum that can be garnished is 25% of your disposable wages.
Minnesota Statutes provide more protection than federal law, so you’ll have less money garnished and more money in your take-home pay. State law says that the maximum amount that can be garnished is the lesser of 25% of your weekly disposable income or the amount your weekly disposable income exceeds 40 times the federal minimum wage. This amounts to $290 a week (40 x $7.25).
To calculate how much of your wages could be garnished in Minnesota, see if 25% of your weekly disposable income is less than $290.
For example, if your weekly disposable earnings are $600, 25% of that is $150. Since $150 is less than $290, creditors will only be allowed to garnish up to $150.
Remember, this is the formula for consumer debt garnishment. The formulas, limits, and exemptions are different for government debt and court-ordered child support.
Wage Garnishment Exemptions
You are exempt from wage garnishment in Minnesota if:
You’ve been incarcerated in the last six months; or
You are now the recipient or have been the recipient in the last six months, of the following government assistance programs: Emergency Assistance (EA), Emergency general assistance (EGA), Energy assistance or fuel assistance, General Assistance (GA), Medical Assistance (MA), Medicare Part B premium payments, Medicare Part D extra help, Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), MFIP Diversionary Work Program, MinnesotaCare, Minnesota supplemental aid (MSA), MSA emergency assistance (MSA-EA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and/or the work participation cash benefit.
To claim an exemption, you’ll need to fill out a Debtor’s Exemption Claim Notice and send it to the creditor or their attorney. You must file this form with the court within 10 days of receiving notice of the lawsuit to claim your exemption before the garnishment starts. You can submit the exemption claim form any time during the wage garnishment process, even after the garnishment starts, but you will have to file a motion and it will be a longer process.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Minnesota
You can stop a garnishment in Minnesota by paying off the debt in full, renegotiating the debt with the creditor, or filing bankruptcy.
Filing bankruptcy stops wage garnishment through an automatic stay. This is a court order requiring creditors or debt collectors to stop collection activity. If you file bankruptcy in Minnesota, you can choose to use federal or state exemptions to protect certain property, but you must be a Minnesota resident for two years to take advantage of the state plan. Bankruptcy will give you the opportunity to have the debt discharged so you will no longer be responsible for the debt and your wage garnishment will end. You can use a bankruptcy attorney to file bankruptcy, or you can file on your own using Upsolve’s free online tool.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Minnesota?
If you’re facing wage garnishment in Minnesota, there are online resources and free legal aid clinics that can help, including:
Regional Minnesota Legal Aid Clinics: Links to regional legal aid services and offices throughout the state.
Self-Help Minnesota Small Claims Court: Information for representing yourself in Minnesota Conciliation Court (Small Claims Court).
Judgment Self-Help Minnesota District Court: Overview of judgments in Minnesota District Courts.
Wage Garnishment Minnesota Attorney General Office: Information on wage garnishment from Minnesota’s Attorney General Office.
LawHelpMN.org: Online library, legal advice, and clinics for low-income individuals in Minnesota.