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 Wyoming regulates wage garnishments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 25, 2021
Whether you’re an office worker in downtown Cheyenne, a miner in Sweetwater County, or a ranger in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, your wages can be garnished by creditors for overdue debt. A wage garnishment lowers your take-home pay each pay period and makes it hard to pay your bills. Fortunately, federal laws and Wyoming state laws limit how much a creditor can garnish from your paycheck.
This article will explain what wage garnishment is and how the process works in the Equality State. It also covers the limits to wage garnishment, what protection you have, and how to stop a wage garnishment from reducing your take-home pay to pay off old debts.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
A wage garnishment is a tool creditors use to collect on a past-due debt by taking money from your wages. Some people call this a wage attachment. Most wage garnishments require a court order, though there are exceptions for certain types of non-consumer debt. The wage garnishment laws in Wyoming must follow the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) and Chapter 15 in Title 1 of the Wyoming Code of Civil Procedure. These laws outline the processes, protections, and limitations of wage garnishment.
Who Can Garnish My Wages in Wyoming?
Generally, creditors, landlords, debt collectors, and debt buyers can garnish your wages in Wyoming if they have a valid court order. Creditors collecting on consumer debt, such as credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans, auto loans, payday loans, and rent, must get a court order judgment to garnish your wages or bank account. Fortunately, in Wyoming, only one creditor can garnish your wages at a time
For government debt — such as federal student loans and back taxes — and for child support orders and alimony garnishments, creditors don’t have to get a court order to garnish your wages. In this article, we’ll be focusing on Wyoming debt that does require the creditor to get a court judgment, which is primarily consumer debt.
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Wyoming Wage Garnishment Process
There are several steps creditors must take before they can garnish your wages.
Step 1: The creditor sues you to collect a past-due debt.
The wage garnishment process starts with a debt collection lawsuit. If the creditor wins the lawsuit, the court will give them a judgment, which allows them to move forward with the garnishment process. The judgment will state how much money you owe the creditor, which will include the debt plus court costs, fees, and interest. After the lawsuit is over and the judgment is granted, the creditor can take steps to collect the money owed from the debtor’s paycheck. Collecting debt from a paycheck is wage garnishment.
Step 2: The creditor has a writ of garnishment served on your employer.
The creditor will file a writ of garnishment with the court. Writ just means a written order. The writ will be served on your employer and you’ll also get a copy. The writ tells the employer to garnish your wages and pay the court clerk a certain amount for your debt, which they’ll withhold from your paycheck.
During this process, your employer is referred to as the garnishee, you’re called the judgment debtor, and the creditor is referred to as the judgment creditor. In Wyoming, a writ of garnishment can be continuing, which means it’s ongoing. Though the creditor has to renew it every 90 days. Writs can also be non-continuing and only last 30 days.
The garnishee must answer the writ within 10 days of issuing the judgment debtor’s first paycheck after the writ is served. There will be questions for your employer to answer about your wages and employment.
Step 3: You’ll receive the garnishment writ and a notice of your right to a hearing.
The employer must give you a copy of the writ of garnishment and the verified answer, as well as a notice of right to hearing form, which includes information on how to object to the wage garnishment and request a hearing. The papers will also include the formula used to determine exempt wages. You must make any objections within five days of receiving the papers. You’ll need to file a copy with the court and send copies to the creditor’s attorney.
You can object by replying that you don’t owe the debt, that the debt isn’t yours, that you filed bankruptcy and the debt should have been discharged, or that your wages are exempt. You can also object if the writ was improperly served, but the creditor or employer will have the opportunity to correct the error.
Step 4: The court holds a hearing on your objections.
If you file objections or exemptions, the court will hold a hearing within 10 days. The garnishment will be put on hold until after the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether or not your wages can be garnished or if the garnishment amount needs to be reduced. If you don’t show up to the hearing, a default judgment will be entered in favor of the creditor and your wages will be garnished.
Step 5: The wage garnishment begins.
If the judge rules in your favor, your wages won’t be garnished. If the judge rules for the creditor, the garnishment order will be in effect and the employer will hold back a percentage of your pay and send the money to the court clerk. Before each garnishment, you’ll receive a notice. Within 90 days of receiving each notice, you can object to the garnishment amount. If you object after garnishment starts, you must request a motion through that court, and there will be more paperwork involved. An attorney can help you through the process.
How Much of My Paycheck Can Be Taken by Wage Garnishment?
Your whole paycheck can’t be taken in wage garnishment, and a creditor can never take more than the amount of debt you owe, plus costs, fees, and interest. In the state of Wyoming, only one creditor can garnish your paycheck at a time. Many other states allow more than one creditor to garnish a paycheck at a time.
The wages a creditor can’t take are your exempt wages. This amount is determined by federal and state law. The exemption formulas start with your disposable income. This is the amount left in your paycheck after legally required deductions like Social Security are taken out. Wyoming law states that the lesser of the following two options are subject to garnishment:
25% of your disposable earnings for a week, or
The amount that your weekly disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage of $7.25. This comes to $217.50/week. If you make this amount or less each week, your wages can’t be garnished.
Let’s say you make $500/week after taxes. Here’s how those calculations work:
25% of $500 is $125.
To figure out how much your weekly income exceeds the minimum wage, we have to know what the difference is between $500 and $217.50, so we subtract. The answer is $282.50.
Since $125 is less than $282, that means the creditor can only garnish $125/week of your wages if you make $500 per week.
Different rules and limitations apply to back child support payments, alimony, taxes, and public student loans.
How To Stop a Garnishment in Wyoming
You do have a few ways to stop wage garnishment in Wyoming. You can negotiate the debt with the creditor to try to settle the debt, pay the creditor directly in a lump sum, or pay the debt by letting the garnishment play out. You can also file bankruptcy and get the debt discharged.
When you file bankruptcy in Wyoming, an automatic stay goes into place. By law, all debt collection activity for your debts, including wage garnishment, must stop. If you decide to file bankruptcy, you’ll have some protection for your property in Wyoming through state exemptions, but you’ll have to have lived in Wyoming for two years before you can use those exemptions. At the end of a bankruptcy proceeding, unsecured debt is discharged. That means that your wage garnishment and other collection activities will permanently stop and your account balance for that debt will be zero.
A bankruptcy attorney can tell you more about how bankruptcy can help you with your wage garnishment. If you are considered low income, a legal aid office can give you some direction, and possibly help you file. You can also file some bankruptcy cases on your own without a lawyer. There are several steps involved, but Upsolve has a free bankruptcy app to help guide you through the process.
Are There Any Resources for People Facing Wage Garnishment in Wyoming?
Wyoming has many resources for people facing wage garnishment. You can learn more by visiting:
Equal Justice Wyoming – A state-sponsored legal aid program for low-income Wyoming residents with information and resources on wage garnishment and consumer debt.
Free Legal Answers Wyoming – An online portal to ask legal questions sponsored by the American Bar Association.
Wyoming Courts Legal Assistance and Self-Help – Self-help forms and legal assistance resources from the Wyoming Courts website.
Wyoming State Statutes – The laws of Wyoming in a PDF.