Wage Garnishments and Child Support in California

How much money can be taken out of my check for child support?

I recently had a case that involved the garnishment of wages for “back-owed” child support. In the legal world, this is called arrears.

I was asked the total amount that could be taken from a paycheck for debts owed, including child support.

The following is some basic information concerning wage garnishments.

If you default on a debt, then your creditors may sue you to obtain a “wage garnishment.” A wage garnishment is where money is involuntarily taken from your paycheck and then delivered to the people you owe money to.

For consumer debts, the typical maximum amount that can be garnished or taken from your weekly paycheck is 25% of your “disposable earnings” OR the amount by which your weekly disposable earnings exceed 40 times the minimum wage, whichever is less. Disposable earnings are the amount of money after deductions, e.g. taxes and Social Security, have been deducted from your paycheck.

Ok, Wil, so what does this all mean?

Let’s say you earn $1,000 per week and $100 are taken out for taxes and social security. That leaves you with $900 of “disposable earnings.” Easy peasy.

To determine how much can be taken out, we need to determine the lowest of two formulas:

(1) 25% of the disposable earnings, which in our example is $225 ($900 x .25)


(2) The difference between disposable earnings and 40 times the hourly minimum wage .In 2018 the minimum wage is $10.50. A 40 hour work week yields $420. In this formula, we take your disposable income and the difference between your disposable income and 40 times the minimum wage. We already know that the disposable earnings is $900. Then we compare your disposable income to 40 times the minimum wage. In 2018, the minimum wage is $10.50 per hour, so we multiply that by 40 to get $420. We deduct $420 from your disposable earnings of $900 to get $480.
Because the first formula yields a lesser amount ($225) than the second formula ($480), your check will be garnished $225 per week (the lesser of the two).

There are different rules for different types of debts, so make sure you discuss your facts with an attorney to ascertain which rule is applicable to the circumstances of your case.

Child Support and Wage Garnishments in California

If you owe child support as much as 65% of your disposable earnings can be taken from your paycheck. Ouch. Up to 60% of your wages can be garnished for child support and if you have fallen behind several months, an additional 5% penalty can be assessed.

I think my wages are about to be garnished, what do I do?

If you are facing a potential wage garnishment, it is important that you speak with a competent attorney right away to explore your options. You may be able to contest the original debt or come to an agreement with your creditors whereby you avoid the garnishment altogether.

If all else fails and if an option, you can file for bankruptcy protection and stop the wage garnishment by filing for bankruptcy. Please be aware, however, that the protection under a bankruptcy cannot stop a wage garnishment related to family support.

If you need help resolving a debt dispute, modifying a family support order, or evaluating whether bankruptcy is in your best interest, give me a call. I am experienced in this area and can help.

Wilber M. Salgado, Esq.