Missouri Garnishment Laws

Missouri is known to so many residents as a state with opportunity for all to excel. However, there is a darker side to economic prosperity which includes those who are not so fortunate or may just have fallen on hard times. Some Missourians have fallen so behind on their debts that the only reasonable alternative for creditors is a wage garnishment action. Usually, creditors will first attempt to work on repayment plans with the debtor but failing that, will engage in a wage garnishment action. Below we will examine the Missouri garnishment laws as how they pertain to the state, and including the federal context.

What is wage garnishment in Missouri?

missouri flagWhen a creditor seeks to garnish a debtor’s wages, known as wage garnishment, they are seeking direct payment from the debtor’s paycheck to satisfy a debt. After seeking approval from a Missouri court and that approval being grant, a creditor will inform that debtor’s employer that a certain amount of money should be withheld from a debtor/employee’s paycheck until the debt has been satisfied. This is legally known as attachment. Following the deduction of the funds to satisfy the wage garnishment order, the remainder of the wages will be sent to the employee.

Can all income be garnished in Missouri and what is uniquely exempted in Missouri?

Missouri law has a variety of exemptions for wage garnishment laws though wages, commissions, and bonus generally – paid hourly or via salary – are subject to garnishment for the currently employed. Missouri attachment exemptions as it relates to wage garnishment are fairly broad and unique compared to other states. Missouri is almost one of a kind and Missouri residents should take exemptions to wage garnishment which include, among other exemptions:

  • household goods and furnishings used for personal purposes by the debtor or dependent which do not exceed $3,000 in value
  • a wedding ring which does not exceed $1,500 in value
  • any other property not to exceed $600
  • any professional tools of a trade not to exceed $3,000 in value
  • any cars not exceeding $3,000 in value
  • a mobile home where the debtor resides which does not exceed $5,000 in value
  • a life insurance policy which has not paid out up to $15,000 where the deceased has a close familial relationship with the beneficiary
  • Social security, veterans, disability, or unemployment benefits
  • Spousal support or payments under a pension or stock retirement plan such as a 401k
  • Other relevant exemptions

What kind of debts are collectible in Missouri?

In Missouri, any kind of debt is collectible under the law if the debt is outstanding and was entered into legally. These debts can range from student loans to child support to credit card bills to hospital or other related medical debts. This translates into liability for any debt under your name which you are legally obligated to pay.

missouri garnishment laws

How do you obtain a wage garnishment order in Missouri?

Similar to many states, wage garnishment for most creditors requires a court order after a showing of proof enough to ensure a judge grants the order. In Missouri, personal service is required on the debtors so the debtor is aware a creditor is seeking to garnish his or her wages in satisfaction of the debt. Following the order, a creditor will then go to the debtor’s employer and request that the money be removed from the debtor’s check until the debt has been satisfied.

For some creditors, such as the IRS or a student loan servicer, there is no need for a garnishment order.

What defenses are available for a wage garnishment action in Missouri?

Oftentimes, there are precious few defenses available for someone who has been the subject of a wage garnishment action in Missouri. However, there are a few tried and true defenses that can halt a writ of garnishment if asserted in time. They are:

  • Full payment and satisfaction of the debt
  • A payment plan that has been entered into with the creditor and which payments are currently being made on
  • A creditor asking for a garnishment which exceeds the limits imposed by federal law or Missouri state law

What is the most that I can expect to be garnished from my paycheck in Missouri and is there a special category of person that is less impacted financially?

Missouri heads of households have a special carve out that makes wage garnishment less punishing

Missouri state law is unique in that it includes a specified carve out for heads of households. For Missourians who do not qualify as a head of household, Missouri law states the maximum amount of money which can be garnished is 25% of disposable income or anything more than 30 times the federal minimum wage. Disposable income is defined as income available after paying relevant federal and state taxes. However, for those Missourians who are supporting dependents and qualify as a head of household, the maximum amount of money that can be garnished is 10%.

Are there any federal wage garnishment protections as it applies to Missourians?

Similar to Missouri state law for those who are not heads of household, federal law only allows for 25% of a person’s disposable income or more than 30 times the federal minimum wage to be used to satisfy a garnishment order. It is important to note that no matter the number of creditors you have, you can only be garnished up to 25% of your wages.

Federal law also protects a person for being fired as a result of a wage garnishment action the first time. However, it does not offer employee protections from being fired for a second garnishment action. For example, if your wages were garnished as a result of a delinquent credit card then you are protected from being fired for that reason. However, if there is a second wage garnishment to satisfy another judgement, your employer can legally fire you.

Importantly, the IRS and student loan servicers will not need to secure a court order before being able to garnish your wages. Federal wage garnishment protections are much more liberal when it comes to the payment of child support. When it comes to satisfying child support payments, 50% of your disposable income can be garnished if the debtor is currently supporting a spouse or another child. If the debtor is not supporting a spouse or another child, the debtor’s paycheck can be garnished by up to 60%. Additionally, if the debtor is more than 12 weeks late on child support payments, an addition 5% may be garnished to help bring the debtor up to date with the child support owed.

What should I do if faced with a wage garnishment action in Missouri?

There is no need to take on a wage garnishment action by yourself no matter if the creditor is a private party, the IRS, student loan servicer, or someone looking to enforce a child support action. Working with a qualified attorney, you can work to gather evidence and preserve your rights and any relevant legal objections you may have to the proceedings.









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