Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
Judgment Debtor (or Debtor) - any person/entity who has had a judgment entered against them in court
Judgment - an order entered by a court when someone sues another person/entity and wins
Garnishee (or Third-Party Garnishee) - a person/entity other than the judgment debtor who is in possession of money or property of the judgment debtor and who is subject to the garnishment ordered by a court
Wage Garnishment - taking part of a debtor's pay/salary to pay a creditor
A garnishment is obtained only AFTER a creditor has sued the debtor to enforce a debt or monetary obligation, or for another cause of action, and has a court ordered judgment.
It is usually between the creditor and the garnishee (like an employer or a bank), who is holding money that belongs to the debtor (like salary or money in a bank account.)
The creditor states in the application to the court that it is owed money by the debtor for a judgment, which the debtor is not paying voluntarily, and that the garnishee has money or property that belongs to the debtor which can be used to pay the debt.
The court will serve papers on the garnishee which requires the garnishee to verify that it has/holds the debtor’s money (i.e. that it is the debtor’s employer, bank, etc.). Once this is verified, the court will order the garnishee to pay the money to the creditor.
Most creditors will have to go to court to get a court order. However, a court order usually is not required for:
unpaid state and federal income taxes
court ordered child support
child support arrears, and
defaulted student loan
25% of the disposable earnings for the workweek; OR
The amount by which defendant's aggregate disposable earnings computed for the workweek exceeds thirty (30) times the federal minimum hourly wage, whichever is less
NOTE: Wyoming law protects 100% of the earnings or wages of National Guard members (earned while performing military duties), inmates or parolees in an adult community corrections program, correctional facility, or on work release.
Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour in Wyoming.
The exempt amount (which cannot be garnished) is the greater of (by pay period):
Weekly - $217.50 (30 x $7.25) or 75% of Disposable Earnings
Bi-weekly - $435.00 (60 x $7.25) or 75% of Disposable Earnings
Semi-monthly - $471.25 (65 x $7.25) or 75% of Disposable Earnings
Monthly - $942.50 (130 x $7.64) or 75% of Disposable Earnings
There are special limits applicable to court orders for child support and alimony (spousal support or maintenance). A limit of 50% of disposable earnings is subject to garnishment for child support or alimony for a person supporting another spouse or child and 60% for a person who is not supporting another spouse or child -- plus an additional 5% in each situation if there are outstanding arrearages over twelve (12) weeks old.
The limits generally do not apply to: Bankruptcy court orders or debts due for state or federal taxes.
Wyoming law only allows one garnishment at a time. This means that your creditors may have to wait in line to collect from your wages. Priority is given for garnishments for child support and federal orders from a bankruptcy court or delinquent taxes or student loans.
If you are wrongfully discharged by your employer because of a creditor's garnishment request, then you may file a case in civil court to enforce the law and recover your wages and/or ask to be re-instated to your job. W.S. 1-15-509(b). You have a limited amount of time to file this type of action (120 days) and should seek the advice of a lawyer as soon as possible. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
Wyoming law says you have ten (10) days to object to the garnishment of the bank account after service of the Writ. This is when you must file your Claim of Exemption. While the account is frozen any outstanding checks will be returned, likely resulting in insufficient fund (NSF) charges. Your bank will also probably charge a fee for the garnishment. The Claim of Exemption form should be included with the notice of garnishment.
If you do not file an objection and Claim of Exemption to the garnishment within ten days, then the Court will release the funds to the judgment creditor. If you do file a Claim of Exemption with the Court within ten days, the Court will set a hearing on the objection and your exemption claims. The hearing will be set within five days after you file. At the hearing, if the Court finds that the funds are exempt from garnishment (see below), the Court will order the money released to you. If the Court finds that the funds are not exempt, the Court will order the money released to the judgment creditor.
Keep in mind that even if the Court finds that the funds are exempt from garnishment and releases the money to you, you will still be liable for any NSF fees, garnishment fees and other costs associated with the garnishment. The costs of a garnishment can be very large.
Know that if you have a joint account, your creditors DO NOT have to notify the other account holder of the garnishment and all funds in the account can be frozen up to the amount of the judgment.
When banks or credit unions receive an order to freeze an account, they must review the accounts owned by the individual to determine whether any protected federal benefits were electronically deposited during the preceding two months. If there have been federal benefits deposited, banks must calculate the “protected amount.” The protected amount is the lesser of the sum of all exempt benefits electronically deposited into the debtor’s account during the previous two months or the current balance.
For example, Jane Smith receives $674.00 per month in SSI and it is deposited electronically in her checking account on the first of each month. On October 10 her bank receives an order to freeze $850.00 because of a court judgment. The bank must look at her account records and determine if she has received federal benefits in the last two months. Their review will show $674 received on October 1 and $674 received on September 1 for a total of $1348. On October 10, she has $650.00 in her account. The “protected amount” is the $650.00 (the lesser of the $1348 and the $650). This means that the bank will not freeze her funds.
Important! If the funds have been transferred to another account (not the account where the funds are automatically deposited), it will not be protected from being frozen even though it may still be exempt. You will have to file an objection and claim of exemption to get those funds released.
In our example, if Jane had transferred her SSI money from the checking account where it was electronically deposited to a savings account, it would not be protected from being frozen. However, if she acts quickly, she can still file a Claim of Exemption with the court and show that it is SSI. The money will be released but she will have to pay the bank’s fee to freeze the account.
Keep in mind that if you wrote checks or authorized electronic payments that have not cleared yet, they may be returned unpaid and you will probably be charged insufficient fund (NSF) fees. You will have to pay these fees even if the Court decides that your money is exempt. Therefore, you should make arrangements to prevent outstanding checks or payments from bouncing and prevent the imposition of NSF fees. You might want to contact the people you wrote checks to, for example, and explain that you are working with your bank to resolve the problem.