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 Texas regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated July 25, 2023
In many states, if you have overdue consumer debt like credit card debt, creditors can take you to court to try to get a wage garnishment order to collect it. But Texas is one of just four U.S. states that doesn’t allow wage garnishment for non-governmental obligations like credit card debt. In Texas, your wages can only be garnished for child support, tax debt, and federal student loans.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment gives creditors a way to collect a debt by taking money directly from your paycheck. It’s regulated mostly by state law. Section 28 of Article 16 of the Texas Constitution prohibits wage garnishment for consumer debt and most other kinds of debt. It states:
No current wages for personal service shall ever be subject to garnishment, except for the enforcement of court-ordered: (1) child support payments; or (2) spousal maintenance.
In states where creditors can garnish your paycheck for consumer debt, they usually have to get a money judgment from the court first. Creditors in those states are also limited by law on how much they can teach each paycheck.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Texas?
The following are the only debts that can be collected through wage garnishment in Texas:
Unpaid court-ordered child support and spousal support (alimony)
Unpaid income taxes
Defaulted student loans
Lenders, debt buyers, and other debt collectors trying to collect debts, other than those listed above, are powerless in Texas to use wage garnishment as a collection tool.
If the federal government wants to garnish your wages to collect past-due federal income tax debts or federal student loans, it must follow federal law. The state of Texas uses garnishment to collect debts like state taxes, alimony, and child support debts. Neither the federal government nor the state of Texas is required to file a lawsuit or get a judgment before garnishing your wages for these types of debts.
This article focuses on the typical wage garnishment process for a creditor trying to collect non-governmental debts after a court awards it a judgment.
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Texas Wage Garnishment Process
Your wages earned while working in the state of Texas can't be garnished. But if you work for an employer that isn’t located in Texas, or your wages originate from outside Texas, a debt collector can get a judgment in that state. If so, that creditor becomes a judgment creditor. The creditor can take this foreign judgment to a Texas court, convert it into a domestic judgment in Texas, and garnish you in Texas. If the court awards a garnishment order to the creditor, your wages are still safe from garnishment under Texas law. But the creditor may try to garnish your bank account.
Wage Garnishment vs. Account Garnishment
Creditors trying to collect a private debt from a Texas resident are likely to try to collect the debt by using a bank account garnishment. This is like wage garnishment, but instead of taking funds from your paycheck, they’ll take them directly from your bank account. Creditors must get a writ of garnishment or order of execution from a Texas court before they can garnish funds from your bank account.
If the court issues a writ of garnishment, it will notify the bank or financial institution and any other party that is subject to the garnishment, including the debtor. There is no limit to how much a creditor can garnish from a bank account. The bank will then place a levy on the account and execute the garnishment. Your bank account can be garnished more than once. Funds may be withdrawn until the debt is paid in full.
There is no limit on the number of times that a bank can withdraw funds to try to satisfy the writ. If you switch banks, you’ll just be delaying the inevitable. Creditors can apply for a new writ to levy accounts from another bank when necessary.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
Although wages can’t be garnished in Texas, typically, the overall, total amount of money that may be garnished in any circumstance can’t exceed the amount of the judgment with the addition of interest, fees, and costs subject to state and federal exemptions.
All Texas court orders for child support include an automatic income withholding order. The custodial parent can also apply for an order to garnish wages if the other parent falls behind on making child support payments. But the amount that can be garnished is limited by state law. The garnishment will come out of your disposable income rather than your gross earnings. Your disposable income is your total earnings minus any legally required deductions, such as taxes.
For child support orders:
Up to 50% of an employee’s disposable earnings may be garnished for child support payments.
Up to 60% may be garnished if the employee is not supporting another spouse or child.
An additional 5% may be ordered to be withheld for payments that are more than 12 weeks past due.
For student loans, the U.S. Department of Education or any loan servicer collecting on its behalf can garnish up to 15% of your wages or the amount your weekly disposable income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage. This pencils out to $217.50/week (30 x $7.25). So if your weekly disposable income was $400, you’d compare the two numbers, and see which is smaller.
15% of $400 is $60.
$400 exceeds $217.50 by $182.50.
Since $60 is smaller, that’s how much can be garnished.
The IRS can garnish an unlimited amount of your wages and doesn’t need a court order to do it. The IRS will determine how much to garnish based on the number of dependents you have and your deduction rate.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Texas
To eliminate a wage garnishment in Texas, your options are limited. You can pay the amount through a lump-sum payment or try to negotiate a payment plan with the creditor. Though creditors can’t garnish your wages to collect on common consumer debts like medical bills, credit card debt, merchant credit lines, and lines of credit you may still be subject to other collections actions.
If creditors are pursuing you and your debts are overwhelming, consider filing bankruptcy to have your consumer debts discharged or wiped out. You can use your state’s bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property in bankruptcy. If you have a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be able to file without a lawyer by using Upsolve’s free web tool. If you need a bankruptcy lawyer, most offer free consultations and can provide valuable legal advice if you need to find some form of debt relief.
But keep in mind that if your wages are being garnished for unpaid taxes, child support, spousal support, and student loans, filing bankruptcy may only provide temporary and limited debt relief. Although these types of debts are difficult to discharge in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you could reorganize your payments for these debts by filing a Chapter 13 case.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Texas?
Texas has several non-profit legal-aid organizations that can help you if you are losing income because of wage garnishment. The following are some that are available in Texas: