Clark & Washington

Understanding Wage Garnishment in Georgia

In general terms, wage garnishment is an order from a court or a government agency, like the IRS, that requires an employer to withhold money from a person’s paycheck for the repayment of a debt. This means that a creditor has sued the debtor and won a judgment for the money owed. However, in some cases, wages can be garnished even without a court order. This may occur when a person defaults on a student loan or falls behind on child support payments.

In late 2015 a federal judge declared Georgia’s law governing wage garnishment to be unconstitutional. The legislature has since passed a new wage garnishment law that took effect on May 12, 2016. An attorney should be consulted to help navigate the changes and legal requirements of this new law. 

The state of Georgia allows creditors to garnish wages using the following formula. Creditors can garnish the lesser of 25% of a person’s disposable income or the amount by which the disposable earnings exceed 30% of the federal minimum wage. Disposable earnings are defined as the income that is left after the required payroll deductions are taken. Required deductions include social security and state and federal taxes. If disposable income is less than 30 times the minimum wage, garnishment is not allowed.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, employers must withhold the court ordered amount until the garnishment order expires, the debt is paid off, or arrangements are made to repay the debt. Georgia law does not allow an employer to fire an employee on the basis of a single garnishment. Certain types of compensation are protected from garnishment. Social security benefits, veteran’s benefits, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, and many state pensions may not be garnished. Georgia’s new law requires creditors to clarify these exemptions to the debtor.

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