Michigan Wage Garnishment Law

In Michigan, there are limits to how much of your income creditors can garnish (take). Learn more.

You won’t lose your entire paycheck if a creditor garnishes your wages. Both the state of Michigan and the federal wage garnishment (or attachment) limits allow creditors who have sued you and obtained a money judgment to take 25% of your net wages (the amount left after subtracting required deductions). However, for a few types of debts, creditors don’t need to file a lawsuit first—the creditor’s right to a wage garnishment is in the statutory law, along with the specific amount the creditor is entitled to receive.

(Learn more about Michigan wage garnishments, including how to object to one, in Wage Garnishment & Attachments.)

When Can a Creditor Garnish Your Wages in Michigan?

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. 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):

  • unpaid income taxes
  • court-ordered child support and arrears, and
  • defaulted student loans.

(Find out how bankruptcy can stop wage garnishments when the creditor has a money judgment.)

How Much Can a Creditor Garnish in Michigan?

Federal law places limits on wage garnishment amounts so that you’ll have enough money to maintain a household and job. While states are free to impose stricter limits, Michigan hasn’t done so.

Because federal law governs in Michigan, in any given workweek, a creditor can garnish the following amount from your check (refer to the section below for statutory garnishment amounts):

  • 25% of your disposable earnings, or
  • your disposable earnings less 30 times the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or $217.50 per week, unless the disposable earnings are more than $217.50 per week but less than $290, in which case the creditor can take the amount over $217.50.

(Figures are accurate as of May 2018.)

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. So your employer can garnish only $250 of your weekly pay.

Garnishment Percentages 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—and the garnishment amount is different too.

  • Child support. Under federal law, up to 50% of your disposable earnings can be garnished for child support if you’re currently supporting a spouse or a child who isn't the subject of the order. If you aren't supporting a spouse or child, up to 60% of your earnings can be taken. An additional five percent is allowed for support payments over 12 weeks in arrears. (Learn more about wage garnishment for child support arrears.)
  • Defaulted student loans. The U.S. Department of Education (or any entity collecting for this agency) can use an administrative garnishment to deduct wages without a court judgment in an amount of up to 15% of your disposable income. (Find out more about student loan debt.)
  • Unpaid taxes. The federal government can deduct back taxes from your wages without a court judgment. The amount will depend on your dependents and deduction rate. States and local governments might also be able to garnish your wages to collect unpaid state and local taxes. Contact your state labor department to find out more or contact an attorney. (You will find a link below.)

(Learn how Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help with child support arrears, tax debt, and in some cases, student loan payments.)

Multiple Garnishments: Garnishment Amount and Job Loss

It’s not unusual to have more than one garnishment—and to worry that your employer will terminate you because of it. Here are the rules.

  • Deduction amount for multiple garnishments. If you have more than one money judgment garnishment, the total garnishment amount is limited to 25% (it could be more if you have a statutory child support or tax garnishment). For instance, if the federal government is garnishing 15% of your income to repay defaulted student loans and your employer receives a second wage garnishment order, the employer can only take another 10% of your income to send to the second creditor.
  • Job loss. 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. In Michigan, an employer can’t fire, discipline, or refuse to hire you because of your wage garnishment. Further, if you had an occupational, recreational, or driver’s license suspended due to a violation of Michigan’s domestic support laws, your employer can’t fire you for that reason unless the license is legally required for your job.

More on Michigan Wage Garnishments

If you’d like additional information about wage garnishment limits in Michigan, including the procedures that employers must follow in carrying out wage garnishment orders, check out the website of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

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