Collect money from someone's pay

After you get a Writ of Execution, you can use it to ask that money be taken directly from someone's paycheck. This is called a wage garnishment.

About wage garnishments

There are limits to what can be taken from a paycheck

  • The workplace can only take up to 20% of the debtor’s gross income (income before anything comes out)
  • There are times when the amount might be less than 20%, for example if other debts are already being taken out of their pay
  • Some other wage garnishments come before a small claims judgment, for example, taxes or child support

Money that can' t be taken is called exempt. If taking the money from the other side's pay means they can't pay their basic living expenses, they can ask the court to stop or lower what's taken from their paycheck.

How to garnish wages

  • Get Writ of Execution

    If you don't have a Writ of Execution, you need to get one. A Writ of Execution gives the sheriff or a process server permission to send out the wage garnishment. You can't have wages garnished without one.

    How to get a Writ of Execution

  • Fill out form

    • Application for Earnings Withholding Order (Wage Garnishment) (form WG-001)

    This asks the sheriff to direct the employer to start withholding part of the pay.

  • Make a copy

    Make one copy of the form to keep for your records.

  • Bring to sheriff or process server and pay fee

    A sheriff or process server must do the wage garnishment. They are called the levying officer.

    • Check with the sheriff's website or contact their office to see if they do. If they do, see if they have any special instructions. You contact the sheriff where the employer is located (which might not be different from where you had your court case.)
    It's usually less expensive and faster to use the sheriff. Only the sheriff can issue an Earnings Withholding Order so a process server will have to get the Order from the sheriff first. So you end up paying the sheriff plus the process server. The sheriff can do it all for one fee.
    • Pay the fee. The sheriff charges about $35.00.
    • Send the levying officer:
      • Original Writ of Execution (form EJ-130)
      • Original Application for Earnings Withholding Order (form WG-001)

    They may ask you to also fill out the top part of the Earnings Withholding Order (form WG-002). They sign this and send this to the employer. 

  • Wait for response

    After the sheriff serves the employer, a few things may happen.

    The employer will send the sheriff any money that's not exempt

    Within 15 days, the employer must send the sheriff an Employer's Return (form WG-005). This will say if the employee still works there, if the money can be garnished or if some or all of it's exempt. The sheriff will let you know if the money is exempt.

    If money can be garnished, the employer will send it the sheriff.

    The other side may try to stop the garnishment if they think the money is exempt

    At any point, the other side may try to stop the garnishment if they think the money being taken is protected (it's exempt). 

    • If they think the money is exempt, they send the sheriff a Claim of Exemption and a Financial Statement. This says why they think the money is protected and gives you information about their finances. The sheriff will send you a copy.

    Read why they think the money is exempt.

    If you agree, you don't have to do anything. The money will be returned.  
    If you don’t agree, you can schedule a court hearing so the judge can decide. Follow the instructions on Form WG-008 for how to get a court date. You will need to fill out, serve the other side, and file:

    • Notice of Opposition to Claim of Exemption (form WG-009)
    • Notice of Hearing on Claim of Exemption (form WG-010

    You also must send a copy of the completed Notice to the sheriff within 10 days of being mailed the Notice of Filing of Claim of Exemption (form WG-008). If you don't, the Withholding Order will be cancelled or change.

  • The sheriff send you the money

    The sheriff will send you any money they get from the employer. The sheriff will continue to collect the money until the debt is paid off. 

    If they change jobs you will need to go through the same process with their new job.

Small claims collection

What's next?

  • If you're still owed money, you can try collect from the other side's bank account.
  • If you've spent money trying to collect, you can have these costs added to what's owed.
  • If you're paid all that you're owed, you must let the court know.
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