Texas law limits the amount that a creditor can garnish (take) from your wages for repayment of debts. The Texas wage garnishment laws (also called wage attachments) are even stricter than federal wage garnishment laws. In Texas, your wages may not be garnished by creditors except for child support, alimony, taxes, and student loans.
Read on to learn about wage garnishment law in Texas.
What Is a Wage Garnishment?
A wage garnishment or wage attachment is an order from a court or a government agency that is sent to your employer. It requires your employer to withhold a certain amount of money from your paycheck and then send this money directly to your creditor.
Different garnishment rules apply to different types of debt -- and there are legal limits on how much of your paycheck can be garnished.
To learn more about how wage garnishments work, how to object to a wage garnishment, and more, see our Wage Garnishment and Attachment topic.
When Can a Creditor Garnish Your Wages in Texas?
Most creditors are not allowed to garnish your wages in Texas. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Your wages can be garnished for:
- unpaid income taxes
- court ordered alimony and child support, and
- defaulted student loans.
Limits on Wage Garnishment in Texas
There are limits to how much money can be garnished from your paycheck. The idea is that you should have enough left to pay for living expenses.
Federal law places limits on wage garnishment amounts. However, as discussed, Texas prohibits wage garnishment entirely for most debts. But your wages can still be garnished to satisfy debts for child support, alimony, taxes, and student loans. Also, keep in mind that creditors may still be able to levy or seize your other assets, such as bank accounts, even if they can’t garnish your wages.
Further, if you work for an out-of-state company or receive your wages from a source outside of Texas, a creditor may be able to domesticate its judgment in that state and still garnish your wages.
Special Limits for Child Support, Student Loans, and Unpaid Taxes
If you owe child support, student loans, or taxes, the government or creditor can garnish your wages without getting a court judgment. The amount that can be garnished is different too.
Since 1988, all court orders for child support include an automatic income withholding order. The other parent can also get a wage garnishment order from the court if you get behind in child support payments. (To learn about income withholding orders and other ways child support can be collected, see Child Support Enforcement Obligations.)
In Texas, up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay domestic support obligations such as child support or alimony. (Learn more about wage garnishment for child support arrears.)
Under Texas law, “disposable earnings” are those wages left after your employer has made the deductions required by law (such as taxes) as well as for union dues, nondiscretionary retirement deductions, and medical, hospitalization, and disability insurance for you and your children.
Student Loans in Default
If you are in default on a federal student loan, the U.S. Department of Education or any entity collecting for this agency can garnish your wages without first getting a court judgment – this is called an administrative garnishment. The most that the Department of Education can garnish is 15% of your disposable income, but not more than 30 times the minimum wage. To learn more, see the articles in Student Loan Debt.
The federal government can garnish your wages if you owe back taxes, even without a court judgment. The amount it can garnish depends on how many dependents you have and your deduction rate.
States and local governments may also be able to garnish your wages to collect unpaid state and local taxes. Contact your state labor department to find out more. (You will find a link to your state labor department below.)
Total Amount of Garnishment
If you have more than one domestic support garnishment, the total amount that can be garnished is still limited to 50% of your disposable earnings.
Restrictions on Job Termination Due to Wage Garnishments
Complying with wage garnishment orders can be a hassle for your employer; some might be inclined to terminate your employment rather than comply with the order. State and federal law provides some protection for you in this situation.
According to federal law, your employer cannot discharge you if you have one wage garnishment. However, federal law won’t protect you if you have more than one wage garnishment order.
Some states offer more protection for debtors. In Texas, your employer cannot fire, discipline, or refuse to hire you because of your wage garnishment.
For More Information on Texas Wage Garnishment Laws
To find more information about wage garnishment limits in Texas, including the procedures that employers must follow in carrying out wage garnishment orders, check out the website of the Texas Workforce Commission at www.twc.state.tx.us or the Texas Attorney General at www.oag.state.tx.us.