Child support be garnished for my student loan?

Wage garnishments are orders issued by the court which allow your employer to withhold a certain amount of your wage to repay unpaid debt obligations. Recently on our divorce forum a user asked, “If I am a single mother of two and I am only receiving child support payments can this money be garnished to repay student loan debt which I have been unable to repay or is it protected? I am concerned because this is the only money I receive to take care of my children.”

Student loan debts and child support garnishments

State laws will determine the type and amount of income which can be garnished. It also will determine which creditors have the right to garnish your wages and whether or not those creditors have to go to court and receive a wage garnishment judgment prior to proceeding with the garnishment.

For example, if you default on a federal student loan, through an administrative garnishment, the U.S. Department of Education can garnish wages without getting a court judgment. Under current laws the Department of Education can garnish is 15% of your disposable income, but not more than 30 times the minimum wage.

If you owe credit card debt, however, certain states may require the creditor to go to court prior to initiating a wage garnishment, while other states may not allow wage garnishments for this type of debt.

Can child support be garnished?

Certain types of income, which are referred to as exempt income, are protected from garnishment by creditors. There are some exemptions, and your case should be discussed directly with a lawyer if you have questions, but in general, the following income is exempt from creditors:

  • Social Security disability and retirement benefits (exceptions exist for child support, federal student loans, or a federal tax debt owed.)
  • SSI benefits
  • TANF benefits (state welfare)
  • ABD benefits (state disability)
  • Unemployment Compensation (exceptions for child support)
  • VA benefits (exceptions for certain governmental debt or for child support)
  • Student Loans
  • Child Support you receive
  • $500 in your Bank Account and $1000 Additional Cash, for a total exemption of up to $1500

Bottom Line:

Repaying the debt, however, is important. The first step is to contact the creditor and discuss a repayment plan. You may also consider taking steps to increase your income. Perhaps you could get a second job or sell something to generate extra income.

Keep in mind, if you do get a job and you have income which is no longer derived specifically from child support payments, the income you earn will be subject to garnishments to repay your student loan debts.

If your only source of income is child support, your child support payments should be safe from garnishment to repay your student loan debt.

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