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Washington Garnishment

Mark Cappel
UpdatedApr 19, 2024

If my ex-spouse refuses to pay a debt ordered by the court, may I garnish his wages?

I left my ex a year and a half ago and the divorce was final this last February. Almost all of the debt was in my name. I assumed $9K and he was to assume &7K by making me payments. He is not making payments and we do not have kids. Is it possible to garnish his wages?

The most common method used by judgment-creditors to enforce judgments is wage garnishment, in which a judgment creditor contacts the judgment-debtor's employer and requires the employer to deduct a certain portion of wages each pay period and send the money to the creditor.

However, several states, including Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina, do not allow wage garnishment for the enforcement of most judgments. In several other states, such as New Hampshire, wage garnishment is not the "preferred" method of judgment enforcement because, while possible, it is a tedious and time consuming process for creditors. In most states, creditors are allowed to garnish wages between 10% and 25% of your income, with the percentage allowed being determined by each state.

For example, if you live in California, which allows for 25% wage garnishment, and you take home $2,000 per month, a judgment creditor could garnish you at the rate of $500 per month until the debt is paid off. Keep in mind that, generally, only one garnishment is allowed at a time, so if you have several judgments against you, the one who contacted your employer first would be paid first from the garnishment, then the second, and so on. Another important point to remember is that Social Security benefits, pension payments, and many other types of income for the elderly and disabled, are exempt from garnishment, which means that most elderly Americans do not need to fear wage garnishment if they are unable to pay their bills.

The US Dept. of Labor offers several resources explaining wage garnishment rules in general, and Title III, Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), specifically.

Washington Wage Garnishment

Washington's wage garnishment rules can be found in Chapter 6.27 RCW: Garnishment. Under Washington law, the greater of the following two amounts may be garnished per week: a) Thirty times the federal minimum hourly wage; or b) Seventy-five percent of the disposable earnings of the defendant. Wage garnishment rules are different for spousal or child support in Washington, and also take into consideration if a defendant is supporting a child (RCW 6.27.150).

If you reside in another state, see the Wage Garnishment article to learn more.


A judgment is required before a wage garnishment can occur. Consult with an attorney in Washington to determine whether the divorce decree gives you the ability to garnish your ex-spouse's wages, or if a separate hearing is required.

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Struggling with debt?

If you are struggling with debt, you are not alone. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Quarter Q4 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Student loan debt was $1.601 trillion and credit card debt was $1.129 trillion.

According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, about 26% of people in the US have some kind of debt in collections. The median debt in collections is $1,739. Student loans and auto loans are common types of debt. Of people holding student debt, approximately 10% had student loans in collections. The national Auto/Retail debt delinquency rate was 4%.

The amount of debt and debt in collections vary by state. For example, in Wyoming, 24% have any kind of debt in collections and the median debt in collections is $2680. Medical debt is common and 17% have that in collections. The median medical debt in collections is $1515.

To maintain an excellent credit score it is vital to make timely payments. However, there are many circumstances that lead to late payments or debt in collections. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to deal with debt including debt consolidation and debt relief solutions.



BBrittany, Oct, 2011
I owe money to my school and I was informed that they will be sending it to collections soon. I am currently unemployed and I am in a civil union in Washington state. Can they garnish my wife's wages?
BBill, Oct, 2011
I have no training or experience in Washington's family law, and as a consequence I am not competent to offer an observation about Washington's domestic partnership law. The presumption is that debt incurred during a partnership is considered part of the community property, and that debt incurred before the partnership is separate. However, community property law varies by state, and in some states pre-union debt becomes community debt. In other states, it stays separate.

Consult with a Washington lawyer who has family law experience. He or she will be able to tell you how student loan debt liability is handled under Washington law.
BBill, Jun, 2010
If real property is security for loan, it is considered a mortgage. A mortgage taken later in time to another is a second (or third, or fourth) mortgage., Jun, 2010
Is a home equity loan considered a second mortgage?