California wage garnishment what do I need to know?

Everyone needs income to pay for their basic necessities- housing, clothing, and food. Eliminate income or have your income reduced for an extended period of time and it’s likely you will feel an automatic financial pinch or potentially face a financial crisis. Recently on our bankruptcy forum a user asked, “I live in California and I cannot pay my credit card bills and child support debt. I am afraid my creditors will garnish my wages and I will not have enough money to pay my bills. Are my creditors able to get a California wage garnishment?”

California wage garnishment

A California wage garnishment allows a creditor to go to court and get a judgment or court order which requires your employer to withhold a percentage of your wage payment from your paycheck each week or month and send that money to your creditors.

Whether your wages can be garnished and the amount which can be garnished through a California wage garnishment will depend on the type of debt and state laws.

California wage garnishment and credit card debt

Credit card companies are allowed to legally garnish your wages in California but not before they file a lawsuit against you, receive a judgment from the court, and send the garnishment information to your employer.

If your credit card debt is sold to a debt collector they also have the legal right to follow the same steps to collect the debts from you.

Keep in mind, however, due to the effort and cost of filing a lawsuit against you, the credit card companies will generally try other means to collect the debts. If the debt has been sold to a collection agency and these attempts ever become threatening or illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, you may have a right to file an action against the creditor.

California wage garnishment for other debts

Our debtor also mentioned he owed child support back payments. Under California state law there are certain debts which can be garnished from your wages without obtaining a court order. For example, if you owe child support, child support in arrears, federal student loan debts, or unpaid income taxes, these creditors can file a California wage garnishment without filing a lawsuit against you in court.

California wage garnishment how much can they take?

Like other states, California limits the amount of wages which can be garnished under a California wage garnishment. According to California state law, creditors may garnish

  • 25% of your disposable earnings, or
  • The amount by which your weekly disposable earnings exceeds 40 times the state hourly minimum wage

For example:

Let’s assume the debtor makes $2000 per week and their net wages are $1500 after their employer makes the required deductions. If the current state hourly minimum wage is $9.00, multiplying it by 40 gives us $360. This means this debtor’s wages could be garnished through a California wage garnishment up to $375 ($1,500 time 25%) or $1125 ($1500 minus $375), per week, whichever is less. This debtor’s wage may be garnished up to $375 per week.

The formula does not apply to IRS tax debts or child support obligations which may be garnished through a California wage garnishment at a higher rate.

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Beth L. is a content writer for Better Bankruptcy. Good content and information is one of many methods we utilize to bring you the answers you need.