Is wage garnishment from a divorce an option if my ex is not paying?

Yes.  If a spouse is not following a court order regarding child or spousal support a wage garnishment from a divorce can be ordered.

In order to do so the party seeking a wage garnishment from a divorce must file a motion to the court requesting a writ to collect support arrearages.  The paperwork is complicated and must be done with detail in order to ensure the garnishment goes through.  Additionally, there are a number of restrictions on the amount of the earnings that may be taken.  The specific details depend on whether the writ was issued to collect support arrearages or for some other purpose.

As to how much, when a writ is issued to collect support arrearages, 50 percent of the judgment debtor’s “disposable earnings,” is in play.  “Disposable earnings” are defined by 15 USC §1672(b) as earnings remaining after deduction of any amounts required by law to be withheld.  Unless the garnished party files a motion to limit the disposable income that will be the amount withheld and paid to the judgment creditor.

However, getting the court to issue the writ is not an easy process.  In order to issue the wage garnishment for support the court must (1) equitably divide the judgment debtor’s earnings, taking into account the needs of all the persons the judgment debtor is obligated to support, and (2) effectuate the division by determining the amount to be withheld under the wage garnishment.

When the writ is issued to collect amounts other than support arrearages (e.g., attorney fees), 75 percent of the judgment debtor’s disposable earnings are in play. As a practical matter, there will be cases in which an assignment order takes more than 25 percent of the judgment debtor’s disposable earnings, leaving nothing to be taken under the wage garnishment.

To learn more about wage garnishments or other family law and divorce topics visit the Core Law Group blog at or call one of our divorce attorneys at 949-505-2479.