How Can I Protect My Wages from Collection?

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You, the judgment debtor, may be able to protect some of your wages from being taken to pay the judgment. (See California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 704.070 to 704.170 Opens new window and Sections 706.050 and 706.051) Opens new window

This information is itemized in a court form entitled Exemptions from the Enforcement of Judgments (Form EJ-155). Opens new window

NOTE:  Workers' compensation, unemployment, pensions, social security, welfare, or insurance payments are automatically protected and cannot be taken to satisfy a judgment.

Some of your wages are automatically protected, but sometimes you have to ask the court to decide whether other of your wages are exempt from collection or not.

If the judgment creditor has filed a Writ of Execution
on your wages

Within 10 days of receiving the Earnings Withholding Order (Form WG-002):

Step 1. Get and fill out 3 forms: 

  • Claim of Exemption (Wage Garnishment) (Form WG-006) Opens new window
  • Financial Statement (Form WG-007/EJ-165) Opens new window
  • Notice of Filing of Claim of Exemption (Form WG-008) Opens new window

Make at least 2 copies of the forms.

Step 2.
Give the originals and one copy of the Claim of Exemption, the Financial Statement and the Notice of Filing of Claim of Exemption to the levying officer Opens new window (usually the sheriff). Keep one copy each form for your own files.

Step 3
. The levying officer will serve Opens new window the judgment creditor with a copy of the Claim of Exemption, the Financial Statement, and the Notice of Filing of Claim of Exemption either by mail or in person.

The court will decide which assets and how much of your earnings are protected from collection, and will send its judgment to you and the judgment creditor by mail.

The judgment creditor has time to object to your Claim of Exemption:
  • 10 days if the Claim was served in person;
  • 15 days if the Claim was served by mail.

The way the judgment creditor objects is by filing three forms with the court:

  • a Notice of Opposition to the Claim of Exception (Form WG-009),
  • a Notice of Hearing on Claim of Exemption (Form WG-010), and
  • an Order Determining Claim of Exemption (Form WG-011).

The judgment creditor must serve Opens new window you with copies of these forms.

The judgment creditor must also give the levying officer Opens new window copies of these forms. The levying officer will then file your Claim of Exemption (and Financial Statement) with the court for the hearing.

The court must hold a hearing on your Claim and the judgment creditor’s Opposition within 20 days from the date the judgment creditor filed the Opposition papers with the court.

Go to the hearing prepared with any documents that prove why your wages should not be taken. For example, take your pay stubs, receipts of your living expenses and that of your family, etc. You should prove to the court the amounts in the Financial Statement you files with the levying officer.



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