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 Nebraska regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 31, 2021
Receiving a notice that your wages are being garnished is a frightening experience that can make you feel trapped. You may wonder how you’ll pay your bills or even whether you should quit your job. While wage garnishment is a serious matter, it’s not the end of the world.
Nebraska law places strict limits on wage garnishments, and there are steps you can take to stop or reduce the garnishment. This article covers the rules and procedures for wage garnishments in the Cornhusker State and your options for relief.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment is a legal process by which a creditor — a person or business you owe money to — can collect money from you. Typically, a judge orders your employer to withhold a certain amount of money from each of your paychecks and send it to the creditor to pay your debt. Most creditors must sue you and win a judgment against you before they can garnish your check. Federal and state laws both limit how much of each paycheck can be withheld.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Nebraska?
In Nebraska, most creditors can’t garnish your wages unless they have a valid judgment from the court. To get a judgment, a creditor must file a lawsuit against you, go to court, and present evidence that proves you owe the creditor money. The creditor who files the lawsuit can be the original creditor, or it can be a debt collector, debt buyer, or collection agency. If you don’t answer the lawsuit or don’t show up to the hearing, the creditor can still get a default judgment.
Any creditor with a money judgment against you can ask the court to garnish your wages. Some creditors can garnish your wages even without getting a judgment against you. In Nebraska, a creditor can garnish your wages without a court judgment if the debt you owe is for:
Defaulted student loans;
Back taxes owed to the IRS or the Nebraska Department of Revenue; or
Past-due child support.
These types of debts aren’t subject to Nebraska’s standard garnishment rules. There are special garnishment procedures and limits in place for each of these special debt categories in Nebraska. The information in this article focuses on the standard guidelines that apply to most creditors.
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Nebraska Wage Garnishment Process
To start the garnishment process, a creditor with a money judgment against you (sometimes called a judgment creditor) requests a court order to garnish your wages. The court issues the garnishment paperwork, which includes a Summons and Affidavit, a Notice to Judgment Debtor, an Order of Garnishment, Interrogatories, and a Request for Hearing form. The creditor delivers the garnishment paperwork to your employer, also called the garnishee. The creditor must also send you copies of all paperwork, through certified mail, within three days.
Certain types of income and property are exempt from wage garnishments. If you believe you’re entitled to claim any of Nebraska’s exemptions, you must file a claim with the court within three business days of receiving your copy of the garnishment paperwork. To claim exemptions and request a hearing, complete the request for hearing form (included in the garnishment paperwork) and file the request form with the court at the address on the form.
Your employer has 10 days after receiving the paperwork to answer the interrogatories. Interrogatories are questions from the creditor about your employment status, how much you earn, and how often you get paid. After your employer answers the interrogatories, the judge places a continuing lien on your nonexempt income and issues a Writ of Garnishment to your employer. The garnishment starts immediately, beginning with the pay period in which the Writ of Garnishment is issued.
Under Nebraska law, the continuing lien and withholding order expire after 90 days. The creditor can renew the garnishment for a second 90-day period. After 180 days, the creditor must begin the process again.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
Nebraska’s standard wage garnishment limits, which closely mirror the federal laws, are based on how much disposable income you earn each workweek. State law defines your disposable earnings as your gross earnings, minus deductions for federal income tax, state income tax, and payroll taxes (including Medicare and Social Security).
The state of Nebraska provides additional protection for people who qualify as the head of a family. You’re considered the head of a family if you financially support and provide care for at least one family member. The wage garnishment order and interrogatories in your garnishment paperwork indicate whether the court considers you to be head of a family. If you believe your head-of-family status as shown on these documents is wrong, you should notify the court as soon as possible or file the Request for Hearing form included in the garnishment paperwork.
For each workweek, a creditor can take whichever of these is less:
25% of your weekly disposable earnings (15% if you qualify as head of a family); or
Your weekly disposable income minus $217.50. This is the current federal minimum hourly wage ($7.25) multiplied by 30.
The interrogatories included in the garnishment paperwork contain a detailed worksheet for calculating the amount to be deducted from each paycheck. There is a different calculation form for people who are considered the head of a family (Garnishment Type A) than people who are not head of a family (Garnishment Type B).
The total amount garnished overall can’t be more than the total amount of the judgment debt. The judgment debt may include the original judgment balance plus post-judgment interest, the creditor’s court costs, and expenses like process server fees.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Nebraska
There are two primary ways to stop a wage garnishment in Nebraska. The first is to pay the debt. If you have access to funds or have property you can sell, you can pay the debt in a lump sum, which saves you interest in the long run. If you can’t afford to pay the debt in full, you can pay over time by allowing the garnishment to remain in place until the debt is paid.
The other way to stop a wage garnishment is by filing bankruptcy. When you file a bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy code’s automatic stay rule stops all collection action against you, including garnishments. In a bankruptcy case, the underlying judgment debt may be discharged, meaning that you won’t ever have to pay it.
If you can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney, you may be able to complete the paperwork and file bankruptcy yourself. In many cases, Upsolve can help you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case for free. If you have a complex situation, own a lot of assets, or don’t feel comfortable filing your own case, Upsolve can help you find a qualified bankruptcy attorney who can help.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Nebraska?
You may want to consult with a licensed Nebraska attorney to learn more about your options and the wage garnishment laws. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, a local legal aid organization can be an excellent resource. Some legal aid options in Nebraska include: