Wage garnishment (also called "wage attachment" or "wage withholding") is when a creditor takes money from your paycheck before you receive it. The Nebraska wage garnishment law protects more of your wages than does federal law. In Nebraska, most creditors can garnish up to 25% of your wages to apply to your debts, unless you are the head of household. There are some circumstances under which a creditor may be able to take more.
Read on to learn more about wage garnishment in Nebraska.
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.
Most creditors cannot get a wage garnishment order until they have first obtained a court judgment stating that you owe the creditor money. For example, if you are behind on credit card payments or owe a doctor's bill, those creditors cannot garnish your wages (unless they sue you and get a judgment).
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Your wages can be garnished without a court judgment for:
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.
For any workweek, a creditor may garnish the lesser of:
"Disposable earnings" are those wages left after your employer has made deductions required by law.
Example 1. You are not the head of household, and you earn $1,000 per week after taxes and all mandatory deductions are taken out. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. 25% of your disposable earnings is $250 and your disposable earnings less 30 times the minimum wage is $782.50. Your wages can be garnished up to the lesser amount, which is $217.50 per week.
Example 2. You are single and support one dependent as the head of household. You earn $1,000 per week after taxes and mandatory deductions. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. 15% of your disposable earnings is $150 and your disposable earnings less 30 times the minimum wage is $782.50. Your wages can be garnished up to the lesser amount, which is $150 per week.
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.)
Federal law limits what can be taken from your paycheck for this type of wage garnishment. Up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay child support if you are 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 may be taken. An additional five percent may be garnished for support payments over 12 weeks in arrears. (Learn more about wage garnishment for child support arrears.)
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.)
If you have more than one garnishment, the total amount that can be garnished is limited to 25%, or 15% if you are the head of household. For example, if you aren't the head of household, 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.
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.
To find more information about wage garnishment limits in Nebraska, including the procedures that employers must follow in carrying out wage garnishment orders, check out the website of the Nebraska Department of Labor at dol.nebraska.gov/center.cfm?PRICAT=3&SUBCAT=6A.
To learn more about how wage garnishments work, how to object to a wage garnishment, and more, see our Wage Garnishments & Attachments topic.