How to Collect from the Debtor’s Wages
If the judgment debtor has not paid the judgment debt when it is due, or made arrangements to pay it over time, California law gives the judgment creditor the right to have the money taken out of the debtor’s wages. This is called “wage garnishment.”
(See California Code of Civil Procedure, Sections 706.010 through 706.154)
NOTE: The federal government limits how much you can garnish from a debtor employee’s wages to either 25% or 30 times the minimum wage for the work week, whichever is less.
(See the Federal Wage Garnishment Law, United States Code 15 U.S.C. 1671)
The general process for collecting a judgment from a debtor’s wages is similar throughout California, but there may be some differences from one county to another. For example, in many counties the Sheriff is the most commonly-used levying officer, while in other counties, someone else (like a registered process server) might fill that role. To find out what you must do in your county, contact the Small Claims Advisor.
To collect from the debtor’s wages
Step 1. Get a Writ of Execution (Form EJ-130) issued by the court clerk.
(To learn how to get a Writ issued, click here.)
AND fill out, file, and pay the filing fees for both of these forms:
- Application for Earnings Withholding Order (Form WG-001)
- Earnings Withholding Order (Form WG-002)
The court clerk will stamp all three forms and give the originals back to you.
Step 2. Make at least 3 copies of the three forms that have the court stamp on them. Keep one set for your own file.
Step 3. Hire a Registered Process Server (RPS) and give them:
- 2 sets of the forms that have the court stamp on them, and
- a check to cover the fee for garnishing the debtor’s wages that the levying agency in your county will charge. (You will need to contact the appropriate levying agency to find out the amount of money it requires.)
NOTE: If you cannot afford to pay these fees, you can ask the court for a
fee waiver. To learn how to do this click here. (In this case, skip hiring a Registered Process Server and go directly to the office of the levying agency with all of our paperwork, including the ordered fee waiver.)
The Registered Process Server will then open a file with the Sheriff’s Office (or whatever other levying agency is appropriate in your county).
- This file will include both the Writ of Execution and the Earnings Withholding Order, but there may be other forms needed as well. Contact the levying officer ahead of time to find out what that office requires.
Once the Registered Process Server has filed the documents with the levying agency, he or she will serve the Earnings Withholding Order on the debtor’s employer.
The Registered Process Server then has 5 days to file the original Writ of Execution and Proof of Service (on the employer) with the levying office.
The levying office will collect (receive) the wages from the employer, and send the money to you. The garnishment stays in place until you are fully paid or the debtor leaves the job.
NOTE: Sometimes the employer does not withhold the money from the debtor’s wages. If this happens, the employer is violating the court order. You may ask the court to hold the employer in contempt.
|After the debt has been paid – you must remove the Wage Garnishment
When the wage garnishment is fully paid you MUST end the Writ of Execution. To do this, write a letter to the Sheriff’s department (or other levying officer) and ask them to release (or recall) the garnishment. Your letter should include the:
- Court case number
- Sheriff’s (or other levying officer’s) file number (if this is different from the court case number)
- Name of the judgment debtor (as written on the garnishment order)
- Name of the debtor’s employer
- Date when the garnishment should end.
IMPORTANT: When the entire judgment debt has been paid, you must file an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment. See the section on Satisfaction of Judgment.
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