Garnishment and Your Rights

Authored By
Education for Justice
Because of COVID-19, the Minnesota Governor ruled that ​the pandemic Payments can't be taken by creditors. Also, creditors can’t start a new garnishment for a consumer debt for as long as the peacetime emergency is going on. This doesn’t apply to child support or spousal support. It applies to new debt garnishments on or after May 4, 2020. Contact your legal aid office or make a complaint to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office if someone tries to start a new debt garnishment.

Garnishment is when someone freezes money in your bank account or your paycheck to get money the courts say you owe to them. They can’t do this unless a court gives them a judgment against you or they served you with a lawsuit that you did not answer. You may not get a warning before the garnishment happens.

Sometimes, your money is protected – this is called “exempt” or an “exemption.” This fact sheet can help you learn if your money and property is exempt.

There are 2 exemptions that are automatic.

  • Your employer can’t garnish money from your paycheck if you earn less than $290 a week. If you earn more than $290 a week, at least 75% of your earnings after taxes are automatically protected.
  • Your bank account can’t be garnished if you have automatic deposits of Social Security (RSDI), SSI or other Federal exempt benefits and your account has less than 2 months’ worth of social security benefits.

The other exemptions in this fact sheet are not automatic. You have to send an “Exemption Claim” to protect your money. The form for this is mailed to you. You can also get one online.  Go to:

  • Click on Get Forms on the menu
  • In the list click on Judgment Enforcement
  • Click on Exemption
  • In the list of Exemption Forms click on Exemption Notice

If your money is not exempt, try to work out a deal with the company or person that has a judgment against you. They might be okay with a payment plan, or even a final payment of less than the full amount. If you make a deal, put it in writing and signed by both sides. Keep a copy.

A non-profit debt counseling agency can help. Call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) at 1-(800) 388-2227 for a local office. Watch Out for companies that charge money to “repair” your credit or tell you to stop paying. Many of these are scams!