Garnishments

Garnishments

Below are frequently asked questions and answers regarding garnishments.  This should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Legal questions should be answered and/or addressed to your legal advisor.  If you have any specific questions regarding your garnishment, you should contact the creditor, the court, or your attorney.  If you have further questions regarding the university’s involvement in the garnishment, please contact the Payroll Department at (305) 348-2181 or email them at payroll@fiu.edu.  In addition, you may contact the Office of Employee Assistance (OEA), which is the faculty/staff employee assistance program of Florida International University.  The OEA provides free and confidential professional assistance to help employees and their families resolve personal problems that affect their personal lives or job performance, including financial hardships.  For a confidential consultation at either the Modesto Maidique or Biscayne Bay campus, please call (305) 348-2469 or visit http://www.oea.fiu.edu/.                                                       

What is a garnishment?

A wage garnishment is any legal order commanding that a portion of a person’s earnings to be withheld by the person’s employer for the payment of a debt.  Garnishments are used to recover various types of debts including unpaid taxes, non-tax debts owed to the state or federal government, court-ordered child or spousal support, past due student loan payments, or judgments for money.

Wage garnishments do not include voluntary wage assignments—that is, situations in which employees voluntarily agree their employers may turn over some specified amount of their earnings to a creditor or creditors.  Under Florida Statutes Section 516.17, wage assignments to secure a loan are not valid against government employees in the State of Florida.

What is a Levy?

The words “Levy,” “Earnings Withholding Order,” “Wage Assignment,” or “Chapter 13 Withholding Order” are also terms for a garnishment.

Does the university recognize voluntary wage assignments?

No, FIU does not recognize voluntary wage assignments, pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 516.17.

Where garnishments should be served?

All garnishments must be served at the Office of General Counsel at 11200 SW 8th Street, Primera Casa (PC) 511, Miami, Florida, 33199.

Who can garnish my FIU income?

Any creditor granted permission by a court, other legal authority or governmental agency is permitted to garnish your wages such as Social Security Administration, IRS, U.S. Department of Education, Florida Department of Education, etc.

What is the university’s role in a garnishment?

The university, as an employer, is legally obligated to respond to and/or abide by a Writ of Garnishment issued by a court or other authorized agency.  When applicable, the university will send the court an Answer to the Writ of Garnishment containing information about your FIU wages.  You will receive a copy of the Answer at your last known address.  The university will begin immediately withholding a portion of your wages.  Withholdings from your wages will continue until further notice from the court or other authorized agency.

How much can you take from my checks?

The law sets the maximum amount that may be garnished in any workweek or pay period, regardless of the number of garnishment orders received by the employer.  For ordinary garnishments (i.e., those not for child support, bankruptcy, or any state or federal tax), the weekly amount may not exceed the lesser of two figures: 25 percent of the employee’s disposable earnings, or the amount by which an employee’s disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour).

What are the restrictions on child support and alimony?

Specific restrictions apply to court orders for child support or alimony.  The garnishment law allows up to 50 percent of a worker’s disposable earnings to be garnished for these purposes if the worker is supporting another spouse or child, or up to 60 percent if the worker is not.  An additional 5 percent may be garnished for support payments more than 12 weeks in arrears.

Can FIU reduce the amount withheld?

No, this matter is between you and the creditor.

Can I skip a deduction?

No, the university is required to withhold the court-ordered amount until directed by the court to do something different.

Will the garnishment amount be deducted from my net pay?

It depends upon the type of garnishment.  For example, a Federal Levy will exempt a predetermined amount of your net pay from levy.  Otherwise, the deduction is taken from your “Disposable earnings.”

What are disposable earnings?

Disposable earnings are equal to the employee’s earnings less deductions required by federal and/or state law.  Required deductions include: federal income tax withholding, Social Security, Medicare, state withholding, state unemployment, and local taxes.

Do I have to pay any fee for my garnishment?

Yes, the university charges an administration fee totaling $5.00 for the first deduction and $2.00 for each subsequent deduction.

How can I have the garnishment stopped?

You should contact the creditor, the court, or your attorney to stop the garnishment.  FIU is under a legal obligation to continue garnishing your wages according to the specifications of the Order of Garnishment or until the university receives notification from the court or other authorized agency stating otherwise.