Make a claim of exemption for wage garnishment
Wage garnishment is when the debt collector has your employer take up to 20% of your wages to pay the money you owe. If this prevents you for paying for your family’s basic needs, you can file a Claim of Exemption to ask to lower the amount being taken.
Important things to know
- By law, your employer cannot fire you for a single wage garnishment.
- The sooner you act, the sooner your wage garnishment can be stopped or reduced.
Prepare the Claim of Exemption
Fill out two forms:
Or, use a free online app to help you complete these forms. You will need to print your forms once you're done.
Make two copies of your completed forms. Keep one copy for yourself.
File the Claim of Exemption
Take or mail the original and one copy to the Levying Officer identified in the upper right-hand corner of the Earnings Withholding Order (form WG-002). This is usually the sheriff. It may or may not be your local sheriff.
The sheriff keeps the original and sends a copy to the debt collector.Your wages may continue to be garnished while you wait. But, they will be returned if you win your claim.
Wait to see if the claim is opposed
The debt collector has 10 days to respond.
If they don’t respond, then your claim is granted. The sheriff will tell your employer to stop or reduce the garnishment and return any extra money that was garnished after you filed your Claim of Exemption.
If they do respond, it means they oppose your claim. You will have a hearing where a judge will decide the claim.
You will be mailed:
- Notice of Opposition to Claim of Exemption (Wage Garnishment)(form WG-009) , and
- Notice of Hearing on Claim of Exemption (form WG-010/EJ-175).
The date, time and place will be on the Notice of Hearing on Claim of Exemption.
Reply to the opposition (if any)
If the debt collector opposed your Claim of Exemption, read the papers to find out why. You can reply to show the court clarifying facts, documents, or other evidence to support your Claim of Exemption.
Your reply must be filed at least five court days before the hearing.
To support your statements, you can attach proof of your income and expenses to the Declaration.
Proof of income- Paystubs or other documents to prove the source and amount of income
Bills - To show expenses
Be sure to black-out any account numbers that may be on the documents.
Serve a copy of your response on the debt collector and file the original and two copies with the court.
Check if your court uses “tentative rulings”
Before your hearing, contact your court clerk and ask if there’s a “tentative ruling” process.
In some courts, the court posts (usually on its website) how it intends to rule the day before the hearing. In these courts, your hearing will be cancelled unless you call to say you still want the hearing. If your hearing is cancelled, the ruling the court posted will become final.
Go to the hearing
At the hearing, it is your job to prove to the court that you qualify for an exemption. To do this:
- Tell the court how it will be impossible for you to pay for your family's basic needs if the money is taken from your paycheck. The other side may say it is not true.
- Bring evidence that shows you can't afford to have the money taken. This might be your paychecks, bank statements, and bills.
After hearing from both sides, the court will decide whether to grant your claim or not. If you win, the court will order the sheriff to stop or reduce the garnishment and return the exempt money.