Vermont Wage Garnishment Law (Trustee Process Against Service)

Vermont's wage garnishment law (called trustee process against wages) limits how much creditors can take from your paycheck.

Vermont law limits the amount that a creditor can garnish (take) from your wages for repayment of debts. In Vermont, garnishing wages is referred to as “trustee process against earnings.” The Vermont trustee process laws are even stricter than federal wage garnishment laws and protect more of your wages, but only under certain circumstances. For the most part, creditors with judgments can take only 15% of your wages. However, for some types of debts, your creditors can take more.

Read on to learn about trustee process (wage garnishment) laws in Vermont.

What Is Trustee Process Against Wages (Wage Garnishment)?

A trustee process against wages (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 Garnishments & Attachments topic.

When Can a Creditor Garnish Your Wages in Vermont?

Most creditors cannot issue a trustee process against earnings until they have first sued you in court and obtained a judgment indicating that you owe the creditor money. For example, if you fall behind on credit card payments or owe a dentist bill, those creditors must first file a lawsuit against you and obtain a judgment before they can garnish your wages.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Your wages can be garnished without a court judgment for:

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

Limits on Trustee Process Against Earnings in Vermont

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. In Vermont, your creditor must file a motion for issuance of trustee process with the court, and the court will then set a hearing.

Federal law places limits on wage garnishment amounts. However, Vermont imposes even stricter limits. This means that in Vermont, the most that can be garnished from your wages are:

  • 25% of the your weekly disposable earnings, or your weekly disposable earnings less 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage (30 x $7.25 = $217.50), whichever is less.
  • 15% of your weekly disposable earnings, or your weekly disposable earnings less 40 times the federal minimum wage (40 x $7.25 = 290), whichever is less, if the debt arose from a consumer credit transaction (such as a credit card).
  • 0% of your wages if you received assistance from the Vermont Department for Children and Families or the Department of Vermont Health Access in the last two months.

The court may determine that more of your wages are exempt if it finds that your reasonable expenses to support you and your dependents are greater than the 15% or 25% limits. If you wish to assert that your expenses are unusually high or that you received assistance within the last two months, you must let the court know at the time of your hearing.

15 U.S.C. §1602 defines a “consumer credit transaction” as a transaction in which you incur debt and defer repayment, by agreement, to a later date upon which you will repay the debt through four or more installments or for which a finance charge may be applicable.

“Disposable earnings” are those wages left after your employer has made deductions required by law.

Example. You earn $500 per week after taxes, but were unemployed and received family assistance from the state of Vermont until one month ago. Once you let the court know that you received assistance from the state within the last two months, your creditor may not garnish your wages and they are fully protected. Once two months have passed from the last time your received state assistance, your creditor may begin to garnish up to the lesser of 15% of your weekly disposable earnings ($75) or your disposable earnings less 40 times the federal minimum wage ($210), if the debt arose from a consumer credit transaction. That means the creditor can take up to $75 per week, unless you provide the court with evidence that your family expenses are unusually high, in which case the court might order your creditor to garnish a lesser amount.

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.

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. (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.)

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.

Unpaid Taxes

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 garnishment, the total amount that can be garnished is limited to 25%, or 15% for consumer credit transactions. For example, if the federal government is garnishing 15% of your income to repay defaulted student loans and your employer receives a second wage garnishment order for a credit card debt, the employer cannot garnish any additional wages until the first garnishment ends.

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 Vermont, your employer cannot fire you unless because a creditor exercised trustee process against your wages.

For More Information on Vermont Wage Garnishment Laws

To find more information about wage garnishment limits in Vermont, including the procedures that employers must follow in carrying out wage garnishment orders, check out the website of the Vermont Department of Labor at, click on “Info Center” and then on “Vermont Statutes Online.”

To learn more about how wage garnishments work, how to object to a wage garnishment, and more, see our Wage Garnishments & Attachments topic.

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