The best way to stop a garnishment is almost always through the filing of a bankruptcy. In both Washington and Oregon, we put an end to garnishments nearly every day and often get money back for our clients as well. For those few Washington debtors who for whatever reason cannot file bankruptcy(many Washington consumers believe that they are in this category but few actually are), it is important to know the rules of the garnishment game.
In Washington a combination of state and federal laws protect certain kinds of property and income from garnishment. There are, as always, a few exceptions to these exemptions for child support, federal student loans, and some other debts to the federal government so if the debt falls into one of these areas, please contact our offices immediately. However, under normal circumstances, the following types of income or money cannot be garnished or levied.
- Social Security disability and retirement benefits (unless you owe child support or, federal student loans, or a federal tax debt)
- SSI benefits
- TANF benefits (state welfare)
- ABD benefits (state disability)
- Unemployment Compensation (unless you owe child support)
- VA benefits (with some exceptions for money you owe the government or for support)
- Student Loans
- Child Support you receive
- $500 in your Bank Account and $1000 Additional Cash, for a total exemption of up to $1500
Try not to put any cash into a bank account if you can avoid it. Even though $500 in a bank account is exempt from garnishment if you have less than $1,500 in cash, the bank may freeze your account anyway if the creditor claims you actually have more than $1,500 total. This can result in bounced checks, overdraft fees, and other bank charges.bMost pensions are exempt from garnishment even after they are sent to you. But some are not. Do not have pension checks direct deposited into a bank account, if possible. See if the pension fund can mail pension checks directly to your home.
- Wages – If you make less than the following amounts, none of your wages can be garnished:$253.75 weekly
- $507.50 every 2 weeks
- $550.00 twice a month
- $1099.33 monthly
- Even if you take home more than these amounts, you may still keep 75% of your TAKE HOME PAY. (Example: You earn $400 per week after taxes. This is more than $253.75. Multiply your take home pay by 75% ($400 x .75 = $300). The law allows you to keep $300. A creditor can take $100 of that check.)
If possible, do not get your pay check by direct deposit. Wages are exempt from garnishment at the time your employer pays you. If you cash your check and put the money in a bank account, or if your employer pays you by direct deposit, a creditor may claim that the funds are no longer exempt as wages. Never give creditors permission to withdraw money from your bank account. If you absolutely must keep money in a bank account, avoid keeping it in an account where you also owe the bank money.