Wage Garnishment in Utah
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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 Utah regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated November 24, 2021
A wage garnishment allows your creditor to take money directly from your paycheck to pay a debt you owe them. Utah wage garnishment laws limit when a creditor can garnish your wages and the amount that can be taken each pay period. With few exceptions, a creditor has to go to court, win a judgment against you, and get a court order before they can garnish wages. At each stage, you’ll be notified of what your creditor is trying to do and given a chance to respond. You can stop wage garnishment in the Beehive State by paying your creditor in full or filing for bankruptcy protection.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
When you fall behind on payments, your creditors will make multiple attempts to collect payment from you. Wage garnishment allows a creditor to collect certain unpaid debts by taking funds directly from your paycheck. Most creditors, including credit card companies, have to file a lawsuit against you for non-payment and win a judgment before they can garnish your wages. A judgment is a court order that your creditor can use to get a garnishment order. This is called a writ of continuing garnishment in Utah.
Certain types of income are protected from wage garnishment under the Utah Code, and state and federal laws restrict when a creditor can garnish wages. That said, some creditors can garnish wages without filing a lawsuit. These creditors are mostly governed by Utah law and are generally required to give you notice before the garnishment starts.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Utah?
Judgment creditors are creditors that have successfully filed a lawsuit and obtained a court order and judgment against you. Any creditor with a court judgment can garnish your wages in Utah. Creditors that can get a valid judgment against you include credit card companies, doctors, medical facilities, other lenders, original creditors, debt collection agencies, and other debt buyers.
Depending on the type of debt, certain creditors can garnish wages without filing a lawsuit. Federal debts, like IRS income taxes and federal student loans, have special rules and operate under their own federal laws. In Utah, a court order for child support includes a provision for income withholding. This means wage garnishment will happen for both on-time and past-due child support payments in Utah. State laws on collecting alimony are different than for child support and garnishment is possible for alimony arrears but is not a given.
Creditors that can legally garnish wages without suing, winning a judgment, and getting a writ of garnishment operate under special rules. The focus of this article is on wage garnishment for non-special debts that can only happen after a lawsuit and with a court judgment, like garnishments for credit card debts.
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Utah Wage Garnishment Process
The wage garnishment process in Utah for unpaid consumer debts, like credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans, doesn’t begin until after you’ve been sued for non-payment. Once a creditor files a debt collection lawsuit against you, it must serve you notice. You’ll then have the opportunity to respond to, or answer, the lawsuit.
If the creditor wins, it will get a court judgment stating the amount you owe. If you don’t respond to the lawsuit, the creditor can get a default judgment, which gives the creditor the same collection power as winning the lawsuit. This means that if a creditor already sued you a while back and you ignored it, you may be at risk of having your wages garnished soon.
A judgment creditor initiates wage garnishment in Utah by filing an Application for Writ of Garnishment and other necessary documents. The Utah Court supplies several forms for judgment creditors and judgment debtors to use.
Writ of Continuing Garnishment
In its application, your creditor must choose either a Writ of Continuing Garnishment to garnish wage earnings, or a Writ of Garnishment to garnish other property, like a bank account or personal property. Before filing the application, the creditor will likely confirm your employment or that you own any property it wants to take to satisfy the judgment.
Your employer will receive a copy of your creditor’s application for wage garnishment. Your employer is known as the garnishee. The garnishee will withhold earnings directly from your paycheck and turn the money over to your judgment creditor. Your employer will need to respond using the Garnishee’s Answers to Interrogatories for Earnings. The garnishee’s answers are important to show if other wage garnishments are already happening and to calculate the amount that can be withheld from your paycheck.
Notice of Garnishment and Exemptions
You’ll be sent a copy of your creditor’s application for wage garnishment as well as a Notice of Garnishment and Exemptions form. Some property and money can’t be taken because it’s exempt from wage garnishment. Exempt income in Utah includes Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, public assistance, and other types of income.
If you qualify for an exemption or the writ application is inaccurate, you have 14 days to object to the wage garnishment by filing a Reply and Request for Hearing. Claiming an exemption can stop the wage garnishment altogether or help you protect as much of your earnings as possible.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
The total amount the judgment creditor garnishes can’t be more than the judgment amount against you, plus fees, costs, and interest. The amount of each paycheck that can be garnished is governed by federal and state laws and capped so that you can still pay your family’s basic living expenses.
Your disposable earnings are what can be garnished. This is what’s left of your paycheck after federal and state income taxes, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, and other legally required deductions are taken out. In Utah, the most a creditor can garnish from your wages is the lesser of:
25% of your disposable earnings per pay period
The amount your weekly disposable earnings exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage. This is currently $217.50 (the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 x 30).
The lesser amount of the two will be the maximum amount that a creditor can garnish each pay period in Utah. For example, let’s say that after mandatory deductions your disposable income is $500 a week.
25% of $500 is $125.
$500 minus $217.50, the amount over 30 times the hourly federal minimum wage, is $282.50.
Since $125 is less than $282.50, the wage garnishment cap is $125 each week in this example.
Let’s look at another example. Let’s say that after mandatory deductions your disposable income is $250 a week.
25% of $250 is $62.50.
$250 minus $217.50, the amount over 30 times the hourly federal minimum wage, is $32.50.
Since $32.50 is the lesser of the two, this is the most that can be garnished each week.
In Utah, if the judgment against you relates to an education loan, your creditor can garnish only up to 15% of your disposable earnings per pay period. If the wage garnishment is for child support in Utah, up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished per pay period.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Utah
You can stop wage garnishment in Utah by claiming an exemption, paying off the amount owed, or filing for bankruptcy protection. You may be able to pay the full amount you owe in a lump sum or over time through wage garnishment. Your creditor has to stop garnishing your wages once the judgment amount plus interest is paid off.
Filing for bankruptcy in Utah will prevent or stop wage garnishment as well. As soon as you file for bankruptcy protection, the automatic stay goes into effect. This stops all collection activity against you, including wage garnishment. Individuals most often file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Both forms of bankruptcy, when successful, can permanently stop wage garnishments for consumer debt judgments. Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be your best pathway to debt relief. People who file bankruptcy don’t lose everything. Utah’s bankruptcy exemptions protect your assets and property valued up to certain dollar amounts.
Upsolve offers a free tool that can help you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own if you qualify.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Utah?
Utah Legal Services helps eligible clients with debt collection matters and credit issues, and their pro bono program can help low-income clients connect with a volunteer bankruptcy attorney to handle their case free of charge. Free legal clinics are listed by county on the Utah Court webpage. Free, low-cost, and sliding scale legal aid services help people access the court system and their civil legal rights.
Helpful resources on wage garnishment in Utah may be found on the following official Utah state and nonprofit organization websites: