Start My Answer

Stop Wage Garnishment in California

Sarah Edwards | June 21, 2023

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Harris is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: A creditor can seize up to 25% of your weekly disposable earnings through wage garnishment in California. Luckily, there are ways to prevent wage garnishment, like debt settlement. If you can’t afford to settle, you may be able to file a claim of exemption to stop wage garnishment in California.

If you currently owe a debt in California, you may be worried about wage garnishment. A wage garnishment requires your employer to withhold a portion of your weekly earnings on behalf of your creditor. The garnishment continues until you fully satisfy the debt you owe.

Wage garnishment is pretty serious stuff. If your creditor is successful, it will take a significant chunk of your income away from you. That will make it difficult to pay for your daily needs, support your family, and afford a place to live.

Fortunately, creditors can’t garnish your wages in California without going through some legal hoops. They’ll need to successfully sue you in court and win a judgment before they can approach your employer. Without a judgment, they have no legal basis for the garnishment.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can stop wage garnishment in California and avoid it before it begins.

Avoid wage garnishment through debt settlement.

Settle with SoloSettle

Make an Offer

California has more lenient wage garnishment laws than some other states

The federal government sets national wage garnishment laws, but every state retains the right to adopt different wage garnishment limitations. California offers some of the most lenient wage garnishment limitations of any state.

According to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 706.050, creditors with a valid judgment against you can garnish the lesser of:

  • 25% of your disposable earnings.
  • 50% of the amount your disposable earnings exceed 40 times the state hourly minimum wage, which is currently $15.50 per hour.

Your disposable earnings equal your wages after any required withholdings, including federal and state taxes. However, some deductions, such as medical and life insurance premiums, are not legally required. Thus, they are part of your disposable earnings.

Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 706.051 states that individuals who can prove they need money to support themselves and their families may receive a more extensive exemption or avoid wage garnishment altogether. The exemption amount they receive is up to the judge’s discretion.

Let’s consider an example of how wage garnishment works in Calfornia.

Example: Sheila owes Just A Bank $1,500 for an old credit card obligation. She ignores its phone calls and letters, and eventually, Just A Bank decides to sue her. Just A Bank wins its lawsuit and obtains a judgment against Sheila. It uses the judgment to start wage garnishment procedures. Sheila currently earns $800 weekly in disposable income from her job as a receptionist. Under California law, Just A Bank can garnish her wages for $90 weekly since [$800 - (40 x $15.50)] x 50% equals $90. It is the lesser amount since 25% of $800 is $200. However, if Sheila can prove that the garnishment makes it impossible to support herself or her family, a judge may waive it, and Sheila won’t lose any of her income.

Is a debt collector in California suing you for unpaid debt? Resolve the matter now with help from SoloSettle.

Protect your income from wage garnishment

A creditor cannot garnish your wages unless it wins a lawsuit against you. Thus, protecting your income from wage garnishment starts by fighting your creditor’s legal claim.

When you receive a court Summons for a debt lawsuit, it will include a Complaint. Your creditor prepares the Complaint and lists crucial information pertinent to your debt, like the amount you owe, your account number, and the last time it communicated with you.

You’ll want to review the information in the Complaint for accuracy carefully. If you see any mistakes, make a note. You can include the errors as evidence against the lawsuit’s validity in your Answer.

An Answer is your formal response to the creditor’s claims against you. In your Answer, you’ll specify your defenses to the lawsuit and list any inaccuracies you find. You’ll want to draft an Answer even if you think you can resolve the case before your court date.

The Answer prevents your creditor from asking the judge to make a default judgment against you. Instead, with an Answer, the judge will review your defense and examine any evidence you provide before deciding. If you have a valid defense, they may dismiss your case.

Need help drafting an Answer? Watch the following video for steps on how to draft and file an Answer to your debt lawsuit in California:

If you don’t have an argument against your creditor, you have two options to avoid wage garnishment: repaying the debt or settling it.

Repaying the debt before your court date stops the legal process against you. Your creditor will no longer have a basis for the lawsuit, so it will drop it. Once the creditor receives your payment, it should report the debt paid in full to all three credit bureaus. You won’t have to worry about nasty, demanding letters or recurring phone calls from the creditor anymore.

However, you may not have a savings stash you can use to repay your debt. If that’s the case, debt settlement may be a viable alternative.

Prevent wage garnishment in California through debt settlement

In a debt settlement, you offer the creditor a portion of the debt you owe in a lump-sum payment. You ask it to forgive the remaining balance and report the debt settled to the credit reporting bureaus.

If it agrees, the creditor will drop the lawsuit against you, and you won’t need to worry about wage garnishment. However, you’ll need to ensure your creditor receives your payment according to the terms of your settlement agreement.

Remember that creditors and collections agencies don’t have to accept settlement offers. They will only do so if they believe that it’s their best option and that the resources needed for a lawsuit and wage garnishment aren’t likely to yield better results. Thus, you’ll want to ensure you offer a decent settlement amount.

Usually, 60% of the debt’s value is enough to warrant consideration of your offer, but the creditor may ask for more money. If it does, try to have enough on hand to fulfill the request.

SoloSettle makes the debt settlement process easier. Our software helps you send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with your creditor or debt collector. Then, SoloSettle helps you manage the agreement documentation and transfers your settlement payment for you, keeping your financial information private and protected.

Settle your debts to prevent wage garnishment with the help of SoloSettle.

To learn more about how to settle a debt in California, watch this video:

Stop wage garnishment in California with a claim of exemption

If, as a result of wage garnishment, you can’t afford to pay for your family’s basic needs, you can file a claim of exemption to stop wage garnishment in California. Note that you'll only get wages back from the time after you submit the claim, if granted. But if you act quickly, you can stop wage garnishment before it even starts.

Another way to stop wage garnishment in California is through filing bankruptcy. While bankruptcy should probably be your last option, it’s still a good way to get relief from debts you cannot afford to pay.

You don’t have to give into a California wage garnishment

Many people fail to take action when they’re facing a debt lawsuit. They assume they don’t have any options and the creditor will win the case no matter what they do. That’s a mistake: You always have choices in a debt collection case. File your Answer and defend yourself. If you don’t have a viable defense, try to settle the claim before your court date.

Need help settling your California debt? SoloSettle handles debt settlement for you — try it today!

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

How to answer a summons for debt collection in your state

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on how to beat every debt collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.

We have answers

Join our community of over 40,000 people.

You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now are are just look for support, we're here for you.

Get Started

Win against credit card companies

Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.

Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips

How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts

How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide

Get answers to these FAQs

Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

SoloSuit FAQ

If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

What is a Stipulated Judgment?

What is the Deadline for a Defendants Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

Am I Responsible for My Spouses Medical Debt?

Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

What Is a Warrant in Debt?

How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

What Happens If You Avoid Getting Served Court Papers?

Does Student Debt Die With You?

Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

How Much Do You Have to Be in Debt to File for Chapter 7?

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

How Long Does a Judgment Last?

Can Private Disability Payments Be Garnished?

Can Debt Collectors Call From Local Numbers?

Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act Work in Florida?

The Truth: Should You Never Pay a Debt Collection Agency?

Should You Communicate with a Debt Collector in Writing or by Telephone?

Do I Need a Debt Negotiator?

What Happens After a Motion for Default Is Filed?

Can a Process Server Leave a Summons Taped to My Door?

Learn More With These Additional Resources:

Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

How to Liquidate Debt

Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

Youre Drowning in Debt — Heres How to Swim

Help! Im Being Sued by My Debt Collector

How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

ClearPoint Debt Management Review

Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

How to Appear in Court by Phone

How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

Debt Consolidation in Eugene, Oregon

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next

How to Make a Debt Settlement Agreement

Received a 3-Day Eviction Notice? Heres What to Do

How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection

Tips for Leaving the Country With Unpaid Credit Card Debt

Kansas Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

How to File in Small Claims Court in Iowa

How to File a Civil Answer in Kings County Supreme Court

Roseland Associates Debt Consolidation Review

How to Stop a Garnishment

Debt Eraser Review

Do Debt Collectors Ever Give Up?

Can They Garnish Your Wages for Credit Card Debt?

How Often Do Credit Card Companies Sue for Non-Payment?

How Long Does a Judgement Last?

​​How Long Before a Creditor Can Garnish Wages?

How to Beat a Bill Collector in Court

Not sued yet?

Use our Debt Validation Letter.

Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.

Let's Do It

It only takes 15 minutes.

And 50% of our customers' cases have been dismissed in the past.

"Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly is kinda scary. I started researching on YouTube and found SoloSuit's channel. The videos were so helpful, easy to understand and encouraging. When I reached out to SoloSuit they were on it. Very professional, impeccably prompt. Thanks for the service!" - Heather

Get Started