Texas Wage Garnishment Laws

With only a few exceptions, your wages are protected from garnishment in Texas. Learn about wage garnishment laws in Texas.

Updated by , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

A "wage garnishment," sometimes called a "wage attachment," is an order requiring your employer to withhold a certain amount of money from your pay and send it directly to one of your creditors. But creditors can't seize all of the money in your paycheck.

Different rules and legal limits determine how much of your pay can be garnished. For example, federal law places limits on how much judgment creditors can take.

However, under Texas wage garnishment laws, your pay can only be garnished for child support, spousal support, federal student loans, and other federal debts, like taxes. Creditors can't garnish your wages for the repayment of consumer debts, such as credit card balances, medical bills, or car loans.

What Are the Types of Wage Garnishments?

Generally, creditors can garnish wages. The most common types of debt that may be garnished from your wages include:

  • child support and alimony
  • unpaid federal and state income taxes
  • federal student loans, and
  • court judgments against you for some other unpaid bill, like a credit card balance or personal loan. (But not in Texas, see below.)

What Are the Wage Garnishment Laws in Texas?

Under Texas law, most creditors aren't allowed to garnish your wages except for court-ordered child support payments and spousal maintenance. (Tex. Const. art. 16 § 28, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 63.004). Texas employers must also comply with garnishment orders for federal debts, like federal student loans and taxes. But not garnishment orders that involve consumer debts.

So, the only unpaid debts that can be collected through wage garnishment in Texas are:

  • court-ordered child support and spousal maintenance (alimony)
  • income taxes, and
  • defaulted federal student loans

However, if you work for an out-of-state company or receive your wages from a source outside of Texas, a creditor might serve a wage garnishment order in that other state. So, consult an attorney to learn about your rights if you find yourself in this situation.

Also, keep in mind that creditors might still be able to levy or seize your other assets, such as funds in bank accounts, even if they can't garnish your wages.

Limits for Child Support, Federal Student Loans, and Unpaid Taxes

If you owe child support, federal student loans, or taxes, the government or creditor can garnish your wages without getting a court judgment for that purpose.

Garnishment Limits for Unpaid Child Support

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.

Federal law limits this type of wage garnishment. Up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay 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 may be taken. An additional 5% may be taken if you're more than 12 weeks in arrears. (15 U.S.C. § 1673).

However, under Texas law, up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay domestic support obligations such as child support or alimony. (Tex. Fam. Code § 158.009). ("Disposable earnings" are those wages left after your employer has made the deductions required by law.)

Garnishment Limit for Federal Student Loans in Default

If you're in default on a federal student loan, the U.S. Department of Education or any entity collecting for this agency can garnish up to 15% of your pay. (20 U.S.C. § 1095a(a)(1)).This kind of garnishment is called an "administrative garnishment."

But you can keep an amount that's equivalent to 30 times the current federal minimum wage per week. (Remember, federal law protects the level of income equal to 30 times the minimum wage per week from garnishment.) (15 U.S.C. § 1673).

Garnishment Limits for Unpaid Taxes

The federal government can garnish your wages (called a "levy") if you owe back taxes, even without a court judgment. The weekly exempt amount is based on the total of the taxpayer's standard deduction and the aggregate amount of the deductions for personal exemptions allowed the taxpayer in the taxable year in which such levy occurs. Then, this total is divided by 52. If you don't verify the standard deduction and how many dependents you would be entitled to claim on your tax return, the IRS bases the amount exempt from levy on the standard deduction for a married person filing separately, with only one personal exemption. (26 U.S.C. § 6334(d)).

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.

Restrictions on Job Termination Due to Wage Garnishments

Complying with wage garnishment orders can be a hassle for your employer; some might prefer to terminate your employment rather than comply. Federal law provides some protection for you in this situation. Under federal law, your employer can't discharge you if you have one wage garnishment. (15 U.S.C. § 1674). But federal law won't protect you if you have more than one wage garnishment order.

Some states offer more protection for debtors. Under Texas law, your employer can't fire, discipline, or refuse to hire you because of a wage garnishment. (Tex. Fam. Code § 8.208).

Can My Bank Account Be Garnished in Texas?

Another way to garnish money is by levying a bank account, subject to some exemptions. Certain money in your bank account is protected from this type of garnishment, for example, two months' worth of certain federal benefits, such as Social Security.

If your federal benefits are directly deposited to a bank account or loaded onto a prepaid card, these benefits are automatically protected from garnishment. But if you get your benefits by check and deposit them, the bank won't automatically protect this money. You'll have to go to court to prove the money comes from protected benefits.

However, the federal government can garnish some kinds of federal benefits, like Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), to recover some debts, such as back taxes or defaulted student loan payments.

What Are the Consequences of Wage Garnishment?

The most obvious consequence of a wage garnishment is a reduction in your take-home pay. A smaller paycheck can affect your ability to cover basic living expenses, potentially leading to difficulties paying your monthly bills.

Also, while a wage garnishment won't appear on your credit reports, creditors do report delinquent debt to the credit reporting agencies. And the reports can include information about how the debt is being collected, including through a wage garnishment. The missed payments culminating in a wage garnishment and other negative information will generally stay on your credit reports for seven years, affecting your future financial opportunities and potentially hindering your efforts to rebuild your credit.

Beyond the financial strain, the emotional consequences of wage garnishment can be taxing. Knowing that some of your earnings will be garnished can lead to stress and anxiety. Seeking advice from a lawyer and exploring ways to resolve the underlying debt or work out payment terms can lessen some of these pressures

How to Protect Your Wages From Garnishment

If you receive a notice of a wage garnishment order, you might be able to protect (exempt) some or all of your wages by filing an exemption claim with the court or raising an objection. The procedures you need to follow to object to a wage garnishment depend on the type of debt that the creditor is trying to collect, as well as the laws of your state. But usually, you must act quickly. File the required form as soon as possible. You might have to go to a hearing, but if you win, a judge might eliminate or reduce the garnishment.

Depending on the type of debt that's being garnished, you might have other options. For example, if the IRS is garnishing your wages because of overdue taxes, you can make a settlement offer (an "offer in compromise") or set up a payment plan.

And you can often stop garnishments, at least temporarily, by filing for bankruptcy.

Talk to a lawyer to learn more about how you can protect your wages.

Getting More Information on Texas Wage Garnishment Laws

This article provides an overview of Texas wage garnishment laws. You can find more information on garnishment in general at the U.S. Department of Labor website. To learn more about wage garnishment limits in Texas, visit the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Attorney General, and Texas State Law Library websites.

Talk to a Lawyer About Wage Garnishment in Texas

For information specific to your situation or to get help objecting to a garnishment, contact a local debt relief attorney.

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