Money Judgment Collection: Wage Garnishment

In the last post on this topic, I suggested that the judgment creditor first try asking the judgment debtor to pay the amount to satisfy the judgment. If getting the debtor to satisfy the judgment willingly is out of the question, it is time for the creditor to assess the debtor’s assets. In the best scenario, the creditor has some knowledge of the debtor’s assets and finances, even if only in a very general sense. For example, if the creditor knows the debtor is currently employed, then they can try to garnish the debtor’s wages.

Q: What exactly is wage garnishment?

A: The United States Department of Labor provides the following description: “Wage garnishment occurs when an employer is required to withhold the earnings of an individual for the payment of a debt in accordance with a court order or other legal or equitable procedure.”

Q: How much money will be garnished?

A: There is no hard-and-fast answer for this. The maximum amount garnished per week may not exceed 25% of the debtor’s disposable earnings for that week OR the amount by which the debtor’s disposable earnings for that week exceed thir ty times the Federal minimum hourly wage (whichever is less). There are exceptions to these wage garnishment limits for specific cases, like when the debtor owes taxes or child support.

Q: What does “disposable earnings” mean?

A: This is the amount left over after legally required deductions are made. This could mean local, state and federal taxes, Social Security, and /or retirement deductions.

In California, the creditor may even be able to garnish the wages of the debtor’s spouse to satisfy the judgment. It is important to understand that where state and federal laws differ regarding wage garnishment, the employer must adhere to the law resulting in the smaller garnishment.

In order to garnish wages, the creditor must file a Writ of Execution with the Court, and then coordinate service with the County Sheriff, providing the Sheriff with the necessary instructions and paperwork as well (this will include the Application for Earnings Withholding Order). This process will involve filing fees to the Court, and service fees for the Sheriff.

Always consult an attorney with your questions regarding money judgment collection. For more information, please contact Richardson “Red” Griswold of Griswold Law at (858) 481-1300 or

Be sure to check out the previous article in the Money Judgment Collection series here.

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