Georgia law limits the amount that a creditor can garnish (take) from your wages to repay a debt. Georgia wage garnishment laws follow federal law. Creditors with money judgments can take up to 25% of your disposable income. Some creditors must take more or less, depending on the amount outlined in statutory law.
(Find out more about wage garnishments, including how to object to one, in Wage Garnishment & Attachments.)
A wage garnishment is an order from a court or a government agency that requires your employer to withhold a certain amount of money from your paycheck for a creditor. Different rules and amount limits apply to different types of debt.
Most creditors can’t garnish your wages as soon as you fall behind on a credit card payment or medical bill, however. The creditor must file a collection lawsuit in court, win, and get a money judgment stating that you owe the creditor money.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. A creditor—such as the government or the parent of your child—can garnish your wages without a court judgment for the following types of debt (called a statutory garnishment because the right is created in statutory law):
(Find out how bankruptcy can stop wage garnishments when the creditor has a money judgment.)
Federal law places limits on wage garnishment amounts to ensure that you’ll have enough left to pay for living expenses. Georgia follows the federal rules, so a money judgment creditor can take the following amount (refer to the section below for statutory garnishment amounts):
Disposable earnings are the amount remaining after your employer takes mandatory deductions out of your check, such as taxes. Voluntary deductions for things like health and life insurance don’t reduce disposable earnings.
Example. You’re paid weekly and earn $1,000 after taxes and other mandatory deductions. The first test—25% of your disposable income—leaves $250 in funds available for garnishment. The second test—disposable earnings less 30 times the federal minimum wage—allows for $782.50. Your employer must send your creditor the lesser of the two amounts, meaning that your employer can garnish only $250 of your weekly pay.
If you owe child support, student loans, or taxes, the government or creditor can garnish your wages without getting a court judgment. The rules governing the amounts are different, too.
(Learn how Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help with child support arrears, tax debt, and in some cases, student loan payments.)
If you have more than one garnishment, the total amount that a creditor can garnish is limited to 25% of your disposable wages (unless the creditor is allowed more). For example, if the federal government is garnishing 15% of your disposable income to repay defaulted student loans and your employer receives a second wage garnishment order, the employer can only take another 10% of your disposable income to send to the second creditor.
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.
Georgia follows federal law, so your employer can’t fire you if one creditor garnishes your wages. If more than one creditor obtains a wage garnishment, however, you won’t be protected.
To find more information about wage garnishment limits in Georgia, including the procedures that employers must follow in carrying out wage garnishment orders, check out the website of the Georgia Department of Labor.