Wage Garnishments in New Jersey
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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 New Jersey regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 31, 2021
If you owe money to a creditor in New Jersey, you might run the risk of getting your wages garnished. Wage garnishments allow creditors to take money directly out of your paychecks and are often used as a way to collect past-due debts. This can make it more difficult to pay for essentials like groceries and rent.
When using a wage garnishment, creditors have to follow the law. In the Garden State, creditors have to follow strict rules about which types of income they can garnish, as well as how much. These laws exist at both the state and federal levels. If you’ve just received a notice that your wages will be garnished, you’ll want to understand how these laws impact your rights in the wage garnishment process.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment is a type of collection action where a creditor takes a certain amount of money from your paycheck to pay off a debt that you owe. In New Jersey, wage garnishments are also called wage executions or wage attachments.
Wage garnishments typically happen after you’ve defaulted on a loan given to you by a lender or stopped making payments on a credit card. They can also be ordered against you if you stop making child support payments or don’t pay your income taxes.
Generally, wage garnishments can only be issued by court order after the creditor has obtained a money judgment against you. This order is called a garnishment order. Although laws exist at both the state and federal levels, wage garnishments are governed mostly by state law.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in New Jersey?
There are many types of entities that can garnish your wages, including creditors, debt collectors, and debt buyers. Generally, if any of these entities want to garnish your wages, they need a judgment against you first.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), federal student loan servicers, and parents with a child support order can also garnish your wages, but they can do so without a judgment. For example, if you owe child support, the original order of child support allows for income withholding from the non-custodial parent. If you owe federal taxes, the IRS can garnish your wages using a wage levy.
This article focuses on wage garnishment for non-special debts. These types of garnishments can only be ordered after the creditor has obtained a court judgment in New Jersey.
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New Jersey Wage Garnishment Process
Wage garnishment laws differ from state to state. If a creditor in New Jersey would like to use a wage garnishment to collect on a debt, they first have to file a lawsuit in court to obtain a money judgment against you.
They can either win the lawsuit and receive a judgment after a trial, or they can win a default judgment if you don’t show up to defend your case.
Once the creditor has the money judgment, they need to notify you and all other parties of the wage garnishment and also file the following documents with the court:
Notice of Application for Wage Execution – The notice of application is to inform you of the creditor’s intention to establish wage garnishment against you.
Certification of Service – This certificate is to prove that the creditor actually notified you of the wage garnishment by sending you the notice of application. In New Jersey, the creditor can notify you in person, via certified mail with a return receipt requested, or by regular mail.
Certification in Support of Application for Wage Execution – The certification lists the amount you owe, your employer, and other information the court needs to order the wage garnishment and calculate the amount.
After the creditor has notified you and all other parties involved of the wage garnishment application, they must wait to see if you object. If you were notified via certified and regular mail, then you have 13 days to object to the garnishment. If you were served in person, then you have 10 days to object.
If you object, then a hearing will be scheduled. At the end of the hearing, the judge will determine if a wage garnishment is appropriate and then issue an order approving the application for the wage garnishment.
How To Object to a Wage Garnishment in New Jersey
To object to the application for wage garnishment, you must notify all parties of the objection and file the following documents with the court:
Certification in Objection to Wage Garnishment – This document details why you’re objecting to the garnishment or why you’re asking the court to reduce the wage garnishment.
Certification of Service – A certification of service is a document that shows you properly notified the other parties involved and their lawyers. To properly notify all other parties, you must send them copies of all the documents you filed with the court
Other Supporting Documents – If you have any documents to support your objection, you must file those documents with the court as well.
If you’re objecting to the garnishment amount and want it reduced, then you also have to file a Wage Garnishment Worksheet. All of the documents you need to file an objection, along with step-by-step instructions, can be found in New Jersey’s civil legal assistance packet, How to Object to a Wage Garnishment in a Special Civil Part Case.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
In New Jersey, creditors can’t recover more than what they’re owed according to the judgment, plus fees, costs, and accumulated interest.
Creditors are also limited in how much they can garnish from you on a weekly basis. These limitations are determined by federal law and state law. Some states, like New Jersey, provide debtors more protection than federal law.
Under New Jersey law, a creditor can garnish the lesser of the following options:
10% of your income if you earn up to but not more than 250% of the federal poverty level for a household of your size; or
25% of your disposable earnings, also called your disposable income, for that week; or
The amount, if any, by which your disposable weekly earnings exceed $217.50. This is 30 times the current federal minimum wage.
Disposable income is not the same as your gross wages. Disposable income is the amount of your paycheck left after all necessary deductions have been made. Regardless of the above, only one wage garnishment can be in effect at a time, meaning that you cannot be subject to two wage garnishments at the same time.
Certain income is also exempt from garnishment in New Jersey. This includes Social Security and disability benefits, veteran’s benefits, and workers’ compensation, among others.
How To Stop a Garnishment in New Jersey
If a creditor is garnishing your wages, there are generally two ways to stop the garnishment. You can either pay the amount owed by paying a lump sum or allowing the garnishment to continue, or you can file for bankruptcy. In some cases, you can negotiate a repayment plan directly with the judgment creditor to stop the garnishment.
If you decide to file for bankruptcy, as an individual taxpayer, you can file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Which kind of bankruptcy you file will depend on your financial situation and what your long-term goals are.
Once you file for bankruptcy in New Jersey, creditors have to stop garnishing your wages. In New Jersey, specific exemptions from seizure also apply once you file.
If you’re considering bankruptcy, Upsolve may be able to help you file with a lawyer. See if you qualify using our free bankruptcy screener.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in New Jersey?
If you need help with your wage garnishment, resources are available:
Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) – LSNJ is a legal aid organization dedicated to providing legal information and legal advice to qualifying individuals in the state of New Jersey.
LSNJ Law – LSNJ Law is a part of LSNJ. This website provides legal information on various topics, including consumer credit and debt collection.
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice – VLJ is a statewide pro bono provider that helps residents of New Jersey with a variety of legal issues, including consumer law issues.
Consumer League of New Jersey – This nonprofit provides general information about your legal rights as a consumer.