The Head of Household Exemption in Wage Garnishment

State head of household exemptions offer greater protection in wage garnishment actions.

If your wages are about to be garnished by a creditor that has a judgment against you, a good portion of your income is protected by federal law. If you are the head of your household, state laws may protect even more of your wages.

Federal Wage Garnishment Limits

Under federal law, your creditor can only garnish the lower of:

  • 25% of your disposable earnings (gross pay less taxes and mandatory deductions), or
  • your disposable earnings less 30 times the federal minimum wage

Some states provide even more protection.

The Head of Household Exemption

The head of household exemption is another way that states allow you to protect more of your wages.

A head of household exemption is available to judgment debtors who are the main source of financial support for their family. Not all states have a head of household exemption. Those that do offer a wide range of exemption amounts. The amount of disposable income that is exempt under the head of household states can range from 100% to 90%, or whatever amount is necessary for the care and support of your family.

These protections are not always automatic. To protect your income, you may need to claim your available exemptions and possibly object to the garnishment. If you don't, then the judgment creditor may be able to garnish your wages for more money. If you receive a wage garnishment notice or order and have dependents who rely upon you for financial support, you should research the laws of your state concerning head of household exemptions, or consult with a local attorney.

Learn more about wage garnishments and debt relief.

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