The short description of wage garnishment in Texas is: there isn’t any.
The longer description notes that under Texas law, wage garnishment is available for child support payments and student loans—however, it most certainly is not available for consumer debt (including credit card debt) or debts arising from breach of contracts or torts (including auto accidents and professional malpractice). As such, for the most part, Texas debtors do not need to fear having part of their wages or salary sent to a creditor to satisfy a debt.
The even-longer description will note the following:
In the last two situations mentioned above, the law of another state will apply. It is therefore safe to say that no wage or salary garnishment, other than for student loans or child support, in Texas itself.
Even beyond the exclusion of wages and salary from garnishment, Texas (and federal) law provides additional protection for various income streams, such as:
To the very limited extent garnishment is permitted in Texas, it is subject to the federal maximum garnishment threshold (applies everywhere), which allows the lesser of the following may be garnished:
“Disposable income” is income left after legally required paycheck deductions, such as withholding for FICA. As a result, most income is “disposable income” subject to garnishment.
When the debt is for taxes or child support, the federal government allows more than the usual 25% maximum to be garnished. (It can go as high as 50% - 60%). Since those are two of the very limited types of debt for which wage garnishment in Texas may be allowed under Texas or federal process, if someone is facing garnishment in Texas, it’s very likely that more than 25% of their income will be subject to garnishment.
Since someone could obtain a judgment in Texas and then look to domesticate and enforce it elsewhere, Texas statutes of limitation—or the time to bring a lawsuit—could become relevant to a garnishment action. Statutes of limitation typically vary by type of debt or cause of action, but in Texas, most statutes of limitation are 4 years.
In the event that someone has one of those few types of judgments for which garnishment is available in Texas (such as growing out of non-payment of student loans, or an order for child support), they have at least 10 years to enforce the judgment via garnishment or otherwise.
As noted previously, most often, if a Texas resident is being garnished (other than for child support or student loans), it is through the actions of another state’s court or a federal court. However, garnishment everywhere follows the same general process:
More on Stopping Wage Garnishment in Texas.
A Texan threatened with garnishment from or through another state’s court should retain a lawyer admitted to that state’s bar, who can make sure the judgment and garnishment are valid, as well as seek to enforce any of the other state’s exemptions or restrictions on garnishment. In addition to other ways typically available to challenge garnishments (such as by challenging how the underlying judgment was rendered, or challenging the garnishment itself as too old under the statute of limitations), an attorney may be able to challenge an out-of-state garnishment on grounds that the other court’s jurisdiction (or power) over the Texan has not been properly established.
For a garnishment under Texas law, an attorney can try to challenge the judgment or the garnishment, usually on process/procedural or statute of limitations grounds. An attorney can also determine which Texas exemptions apply to the debtor’s income; the more income that can be shown to be exempt from garnishment, the less total that could be garnished.
For more information:
FAQ sheet about Federal garnishment rules[http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs30.pdf]
Social security and garnishment[http://www.ssa.gov/deposit/DDFAQ898.htm]