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 Oklahoma regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 26, 2021
Oklahoma is filled with hard-working people trying to make a living. Despite that hard work, debt can accumulate. If you owe past-due debt, a creditor can take you to court and get an order to garnish your wages. This means they can take wages directly from your paycheck. Keep reading to learn what wage garnishment is and how the process works in the Sooner State. We’ll even help you learn how you can stop wage garnishment and keep your earnings in your pocket.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment is a legal tactic creditors use to collect money from your paycheck to pay an overdue debt. Most creditors must first get a court order before they can garnish your wages. Government and family-related debt like back taxes or child support follow different rules and don’t require a court proceeding for garnishment.
Federal laws, state laws, and tribal laws govern wage garnishment in Oklahoma. These laws establish limits on how much of your earnings a creditor can take each pay period. In Oklahoma, the Consumer Credit Code and Rules of Civil Procedure cover wage garnishment. Tribal laws will be affected by a 2020 Supreme Court decision in McGirt vs. Oklahoma regarding tribal land. You can call a court clerk to verify current court information or check the website for Oklahoma courts.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, creditors, debt collectors, and debt buyers are legally entitled to garnish your wages if they’ve gotten a court order with a judgment through a lawsuit. Your wages can be garnished if you owe consumer debt, such as credit card debt, back rent, unpaid auto loans, medical debt, or payday loans.
If you live on a reservation but work off the reservation, your wages can likely be garnished under state law. If you work on the reservation, it’s possible a creditor’s judgment isn’t valid in your jurisdiction. Be sure to talk to an Oklahomaconsumer protection attorney if you work on a reservation under tribal law.
There are federal laws that cover IRS debt, public student loan debt, and child support debt. The wage garnishment process for past-due child support payments and government debt will go through an administrative process rather than a court process, but your wages can still be garnished.
This article is focused on Oklahoma consumer debt with a court-ordered judgment.
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Oklahoma Wage Garnishment Process
There are two big steps creditors usually take to garnish wages for consumer debt: First, they have to start a lawsuit to get ajudgment. Then they have to start the wage garnishment process to collect the debt. During this process, the creditor is known as the plaintiff or judgment creditor, the debtor is known as the defendant or judgment debtor, and the employer is known as the garnishee.
The wage garnishment process in Oklahoma has several steps:
Step 1: The creditor files an affidavit to begin the garnishment proceedings.
Garnishment proceedings officially begin when the creditor files an affidavit with the court that gives a financial breakdown of the judgment costs and the names of the parties. The affidavit may or may not be filed at the same time the garnishment summons is issued.
Step 2: The creditor serves you with a notice of garnishment.
The creditor will then serve you, the judgment debtor, with a notice of garnishment that has the affidavit attached. This notifies you that a creditor has requested a notice of garnishment and that you have five days to object to the wage garnishment. You can ask the court for a motion to quash if you didn't receive the proper notice. An attorney can help you with the process.
Step 3: You can make objections to the garnishment.
You’re required to make any objections in writing then file them with the court and mail them to the creditor’s attorney. You’ll use a form titled claim for exemption and request for hearing to make your objections. You can object to the wage garnishment if you don’t owe the debt, if the debt amount is wrong, if your debt was discharged in bankruptcy, or if your wages areexempt from garnishment.
If you make objections, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the garnishment is valid and if the wages are exempt. If you don’t show up for the hearing, the creditor will automatically win bydefault.
Step 4: The employer gets a garnishment summons.
If you don’t raise any objections within the five days, or if the plaintiff creditor wins the hearing, the court will issue a garnishment summons, which the creditor will serve on your employer (garnishee). The employer must respond to the garnishment summons with an answer, withhold wages, and send the wages to the creditor’s attorney within seven days after the end of the next pay period, or 30 days from the date of service of the garnishment summons, whichever is sooner.
The garnishment summons will include several forms, including an exemption and request for hearing form, a notice of garnishment and exemptions, garnishee's answer, and calculation for garnishment of earnings. At this point, your employer can object to the garnishment, but they must do so within seven days of your pay period or within 30 days from the date the summons was served.
Step 5: The employer gives you a copy of the garnishment summons and other paperwork. You can make objections.
The employer must mail you or hand you a copy of the garnishment summons and the forms to request an exemption (the notice of garnishment exemptions and the exemption and the request for hearing form). You can fill out the form to object to the garnishment and request an exemption. You can still object after the garnishment has begun, but the process is easier if you file within five days of receiving the creditor’s notice of garnishment because you won’t have to file a separate motion. If you object, the court will schedule a hearing to review your objections.
Step 6: The garnishment begins.
After the hearing, if the creditor wins a garnishment order, your employer must keep your garnished wages and send them to the creditor to pay your debt.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
Creditors can’t take more than you owe for the past-due debt, plus any fees, costs, and interests, and they can’t garnish your whole paycheck. Federal, state, and tribal laws limit wage garnishment in Oklahoma.
Some state laws give greater exemption protections than federal law, but Oklahoma is not one of those states. That said, Oklahoma does limit garnishments to one creditor at a time, unlike many other states. Wage garnishment limitations and protections in Oklahoma are the same under federal law and Oklahoma state law. Tribal court jurisdiction is limited, so you may have extra protection if you work on a reservation.
Your wages are garnished from your disposable earnings. Those are earnings after mandatory deductions, such as taxes, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, are taken out. Generally, commissions and bonuses are considered part of your earnings, but tips from customers aren’t.
Under federal law and Oklahoma state law, whichever is lesser of the following can be garnished:
25% of your weekly disposable earnings, OR
The amount your weekly earnings exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage of $7.25. This amounts to $217.50 per week.
Let’s say you make $300 per week after taxes and mandatory deductions. In this case, 25% of $300 is $75. And since $217.50 is 30 times the federal minimum wage, you’d subtract that from $300 to get $82.50. Since $75 is less than 82.50, only $75 per week could be garnished.
This formula is for consumer debt. Past-due child support, alimony payments, and student loan debt each have their own garnishment limits, which vary.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Oklahoma
You can stop wage garnishment for consumer debt by paying the debt in full, working out a payment agreement with the creditor before your employer gets served with a wage garnishment notice, or letting the garnishment run its course.
You can alsofile bankruptcy. When you file bankruptcy, the court issues an automatic stay immediately. This stops wage garnishment and all other debt collection activities. Not only that, but bankruptcy could help youwipe out all of your past-due unsecured debt so you won’t have to worry about any more wage garnishments. In Oklahoma, you can use federal exemptions toprotect certain assets when you file bankruptcy. You can likely exempt your house from the bankruptcy proceeding.
Abankruptcy attorney can advise you of the pros and cons and help you with the bankruptcy filing. If you can’t afford an attorney, a locallegal aid office may be able to help. If you have a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you can use Upsolve’s free web app to file without an attorney.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Oklahoma?
The Oklahoma courts and legal aid offices have some self-help resources for you if you’re dealing with an Oklahoma wage garnishment. You can always visit your local library or call your local court clerk for assistance. Here are a few Oklahoma resources to help you manage a wage garnishment:
Free Legal Answers OK – An online portal to ask legal questions on Oklahoma law sponsored by the American Bar Association.
OKLaw.org and Tribal Law– Legal aid resources on garnishment and other topics provided by Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc., Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, the Legal Services Corporation, and Pro Bono Net.
Oklahoma Indian Services – Legal services for low-income Oklahoma tribe members.
Lawyers for American Heroes – Free legal advice for military members and veterans sponsored by the Oklahoma Bar Association.
University of Oklahoma Legal Clinic – Students help low-income residents find answers to legal questions.