Dena Standley | April 19, 2023
Summary: Montana has laws in place to limit how much of your wages can be garnished. For garnishments by debtors, no more than 25% of your disposable income can be garnished. For child support, that amount increases to 25% of your total income. Responding to a debt collection lawsuit can help you avoid wage garnishment.
A creditor or debt collector who obtains a judgment against a debtor can get a Writ of Execution to garnish the debtor's earnings. Wage garnishment allows the creditor to take money from your paycheck to recover what you owe. If the garnishment is already in place, you can apply for an exemption, negotiate a payment plan, pay off the debt, or file for bankruptcy.
By the time most consumers are dealing with a wage garnishment, their financial situation is typically strained. They have defaulted on loans, have had to respond to numerous collection calls and letters, they may have even attended court hearings and lost.
Still, you can use state and federal laws to stop a garnishment. This guide helps you understand Montana wage garnishment laws and how you can use them to your advantage. And if you settle your debt before going to court, you can avoid wage garnishment altogether. Someone could garnish your wages for many reasons, but this article focuses primarily on debt collection judgments.
Let’s jump right in.
A creditor needs a judgment to garnish your wages in Montana. After the decision, they must obtain a writ of execution. Once they do, they can start seizing part of your wages directly from your employer until they recover their money. The execution writ is valid for 120 days, after which they must apply for a new one.
There's a limit to how much of your earnings a judgment creditor can garnish in Montana. Montana Code 25-13-614 Earnings of Judgment Debtor restricts that amount to 25% of your disposable weekly income or cash above 30 times the minimum hourly wage, whichever is lesser.
Disposable income is your earnings after all taxes. It does not take into account your grocery shopping or rent.
Some types of garnishment, such as child support and alimony, do not apply those restrictions. Child support withholdings are determined under MCA §40-5-416 and can reach 25% of the obligor's income. In such a case, your employer has no option but to honor the court order, your earnings amount notwithstanding.
The following section shows you what to do to stop wage garnishment.
Preventing a wage garnishment before it happens will save you financial and emotional hardship. Below, let’s explore some ways that you can help prevent garnishment of wages.
As mentioned, a creditor cannot garnish your wages without a court judgment. So you must have received a Summons in advance. If you did not get a court Summons, you could appeal the ruling on that basis.
However, if you do receive a court Summons, respond immediately. You have only 21 days in Montana before the judge hears and decides the lawsuit in your absence. By answering the lawsuit, you can assert your affirmative defenses and plead your case in court, avoiding a default judgment.
Want to learn more about how to respond to a debt lawsuit Summons and prevent wage garnishment? Check out this video:
You can also stop a garnishment that's already in place. Here is what you need to do.
If you can pull together enough resources to pay your loan in full, do it. It saves you and your employer the hassle of dealing with garnishment while you pay additional costs and interest. This option may only work for consumers who are not too deep in debt. If that is your situation, try the next solution.
Request the creditor to set up a repayment plan that works for you. If they agree, the wage garnishment can stop. You can also work out a debt settlement plan.
In Montana, some of your earnings may be exempt from garnishment. These include:
As a judgment debtor, you can apply for exemptions within ten days of receiving the notification for the writ. You do so by writing to the court that issued the writ of execution. You must also send a copy of your request to the judgment creditor or their attorney and the sheriff or levying officer. Mention any property you want exempt and why.
When you file for bankruptcy in Montana, it triggers the automatic stay. So some debt collection tools, such as lawsuits and garnishments, stop. Although some debts do not go away in bankruptcy, unsecured debts do. Thus if a credit card company is suing you and you file for bankruptcy, the debt gets discharged. And garnishment pauses for some time on the remaining debts giving you time to get back on your feet financially.
Wage garnishment makes an already stressful situation worse. Use the suggestions discussed here to stop it. And if you have a pending lawsuit, use SoloSuit’s online app to Answer in time.
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.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
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Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
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