How Much Can A Garnishment Take?

There are legal limitations on how much a garnishment can take. In the state of Massachusetts, state law gives a formula to follow to determine how much of your paycheck is subject to garnishment. Thanks in part to the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, outlawing slavery or involunary servitude, they cannot take your entire paycheck and make you work for free. The law is designed to make you pay a significant portion of what you are able to pay. Although this is just a formula and may not reflect what you are really able to pay, the law is specific about the math.

In Massachusetts, MGL 235 determines how much of your paycheck is subject to garnishment. This law says that up to 15% of the gross amount you make may be garnished, as long as you make a certain minimum amount.

If your pay is low, around minimum wage, there is a limitation on how much they can take. You are allowed to keep 50 times the state minimum wage each week. The Massachusetts minimum wage is currently $8 per hour, so you will be allowed to keep $400 per week. After that minimum, up to 15% of your total pay can be taken by a garnishment.

If your pay is high, the only limitation is 15%. The more you make, the larger the garnishment can be. A wage garnishment can be up to 15% of your gross income.

There is also a Federal limitation on how much can be garnished. In Massachusetts, this limitation does not matter. The state law protects more of your wages. Even though Federal laws sometimes pre-empt state laws, because of the way the Federal law is written, it allows the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (and other states) to enact laws that protect even more of your pay from garnishment.