You’ve gone through all of the proper steps for collecting what your debtor owes you. You’ve tracked down their assets, demanded payment, brought a lawsuit, and obtained a judgment from the court against the debtor for the amount that they owe you. Even after all of that, they still haven’t repaid the debt that they contracted with you for. At this point, you may have decided to resort to the garnishment of their wages. Just how much money will California law allow you to obtain in this way?
How wage garnishment works in California
When you win your lawsuit against your debtor and obtain a judgment against them, your attorney can ask the court to issue a court order for your debtor’s employer. Once you have this order in hand, you can present it to your debtor’s employer, and they will be legally required to garnish the debtor’s wages until your debt is satisfied in full.
Your debtor will receive a notice of the wage garnishment, and they will have a chance to challenge the garnishment in court if they want to.
How much can you garnish?
Federal law sets the maximum amount that an employer can garnish from the wages of an employee. This amount is 25% of what’s left of their weekly income after all mandatory deductions, or the amount by which their weekly disposable earnings exceed $217.50, whichever is lesser.
However, California law establishes a scenario in which the maximum amount you can garnish could be lower than the federal maximum. In California, the limit is lowered to the lesser of 25% of the debtor’s disposable earnings and 50% of the amount that their disposable income surpasses 40 times California’s minimum wage at the time.
In other words, since California’s minimum wage in 2021 is $13 an hour for small businesses, you can garnish up to 50% of the amount that their disposable income surpasses $520. For large businesses, that limit increases to $560, since California’s minimum wage for large businesses is $14.
After taking all of the steps necessary to secure payment of your debt, you may be exhausted and frustrated. Wage garnishment can be a great, low-conflict way of securing the money that is rightfully yours.