Wage Garnishment Basics
A wage garnishment -- also known as a wage levy, wage execution or wage attachment -- is a legal order requiring your employer to submit a portion of your wages to a third party. This is typically done on behalf of someone who has sued you in court and won a financial judgment against you. In certain instances, a wage garnishment can go into effect without a lawsuit, such as when a government agency establishes the garnishment order. This is typically done for such debts as unpaid taxes, child support and student loans.
Garnishment Amount Limited
Just because a party has a wage garnishment against you doesn't mean your entire paycheck is free game. That's because both federal and New Jersey laws limit how much can be garnished from your wages. Federal law limits this to 25 percent of your disposable income or the amount of your disposable income that is greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. Disposable income is what's left of your pay after mandatory deductions, such as taxes and Social Security, are taken out. Under New Jersey law, if your earnings amount to 250 percent or less of the federal poverty line, only 10 percent of your wages can be garnished. If your earnings are greater than 250 percent of the poverty limit, only 25 percent can usually be garnished. However, when it comes to child support, 50 percent or more can be garnished depending on the number of dependents you have. Unpaid taxes and student loans also have different garnishment limits.
Challenging Wage Garnishment
Before your wages can be garnished in New Jersey, you must first be notified in writing. This happens when the party that won a lawsuit against you requests a garnishment order from the court and sends you a Notice of Application for Wage Execution. The notice advises you of the amount to be garnished and your right to object to the garnishment. You must file your objection with the court within 10 days of receiving this notice. Be prepared to explain why you are objecting to the garnishment on both the paperwork and at the court hearing held on the matter afterward. The grounds for objection might be that the garnishment amount is greater than what is allowed by law, or wrong altogether. Or, you might object because you have already paid the debt or are currently paying it pursuant to a payment plan; you're already being garnished by another party so an additional order would place the garnishment total over the legal limit; or you filed for bankruptcy.
Child Support Enforcement
If a parent falls behind with child support payments, New Jersey state courts will issue an automatic judgment for the arrearage. For this reason, apply for a modification of your child support order the moment it becomes clear you can no longer meet your obligations due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a loss of employment, disability or addition of a new child.