Four Examples of Legal Wage Garnishment

By Phin Upham

Wage garnishment has been curbed over the years, but is still legal at the federal level for four basic instances. The practice of wage garnishment used to be borderline exploitive. While some may argue the practice still is exploitive, the fact remained that banks would frequently mask the true costs of a loan and use garnishment as a means to force consumers to pay back a loan.

Under these circumstances, garnishment is sometimes viewed as an acceptable alternative to allowing a debt to lapse.

Child Support

In the case of child support, wage garnishment is viewed as a means to extract payment from someone who otherwise might not pay. It’s typically not a judge’s first decision, but it can be used as a consequence to non-payment. There may even be several violations allowed before garnishment is applied.

Student Loans

While popular advice suggests ditching one’s student loans is a good thing, real law allows those institutions to garnish an employee’s wages to pay those loans back. Again, garnishment is done typically in extreme cases and usually only after several violations for non-payment.


The IRS can garnish wages to pay a tax bill, but they are the only institution able to do so under federal law. However, it’s important to understand that garnishment can occur the moment funds are placed into a bank account when dealing with private creditors.

Court Costs

Fees associated with the costs of holding court can be levied against the defendant. Even in the case of the defendant winning. Courts can recoup these losses, and may legally pursue garnishment as a means to retrieve the money owed.

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Facebook page.