Portland Wage Garnishment: What is it and How it Works

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Wage garnishment happens when your creditor, someone you owe money to, has successfully utilized the Portland area court system (in any of the three counties) to collect on your debt. The most common method to collect your unpaid debt is by garnishing your wages or bank accounts.  

But before a garnishment can happen, the creditor must first file a lawsuit against you to get a judgment. 


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A judgment is merely a document signed by the Judge confirming that you owe a specific amount of money to that creditor. The judgment occurs at the end of the lawsuit process, and you may NOT get advance notice of the judgment.  If you live in Portland, you must personally be served with the lawsuit to start the court process, so when you are served a lawsuit, do not disregard it! Contact our Portland office immediately to learn your options.

If you’ve already received a judgment, call an attorney immediately to discuss options to stop wage garnishment! Over the years, garnishment lawyer Michael O’Brien has spoken with hundreds of clients who have ignored lawsuits filed against them because their money is tight, only to be shocked by a wage garnishment later on. 

The Wage Garnishment Process

When Garnishment Begins

Once a creditor has a judgment, they can issue a garnishment to take your money.  When a creditor submits garnishment papers to your employer, wage garnishment officially begins. This can happen even if your employer is NOT based in Portland.  


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The creditor is not required to notify you about garnishment beforehand!  They can hand deliver a garnishment to your employer, mail it to the central payroll service, and drop your copy in the mail!  We all know how slow the US Mail is here in Portland, so it is NOT unusual to first hear about a garnishment by seeing a lower-than-expected paycheck.

Wage Garnishment Calculator

When your employer receives notice of the wage garnishment, they are legally compelled to deduct a portion of your pay and deliver it to the creditor. Your employer may be held responsible for the debt to your creditor if they neglect to do this.  You are allowed under Oregon law to retain a certain minimum amount of your pay each week, but above that minimum, the creditor can take 25% of the gross pay.

You can try this free wage garnishment calculator to determine how much can be deducted from your pay. 

Wage Garnishment Duration

The duration of wage garnishment is 90 days, and it can be extended by the creditor several times until the whole amount of the debt you owe is paid off. If your garnishment is not paid off within 90 days, the creditor can renew the garnishment as many times as necessary until they get paid.


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Bank and Credit Union Account Garnishment

In addition to wage garnishment, a creditor can also garnish money in your bank accounts.  Similar to wage garnishment, the creditor can hand deliver the wage garnishment to a teller at any local branch and mail you a copy.  In other words, by the time you get your copy of the garnishment, it will be too late to stop it!  Your bank is required to investigate the accounts under your name and freeze your funds as soon as they get a garnishment. With very few exceptions, all bank accounts can be garnished.  Even worse, a bank account garnishment can take 100% of the money out of your account – up to the amount of the judgment debt!  

This is NOT limited to banks, and you may have accounts at OnPoint, FirstTech, or Clackamas Federal Credit Union – all of their accounts are subject to garnishment.

When handed to the teller, a bank or credit union account garnishment only takes effect on that particular day.  Therefore, if you add new funds to that account the following day, the garnishment will not apply. However, the number of times a creditor can take money out of your bank account through a garnishment is unlimited.

Contesting Wage Garnishment 

What if the Garnishment is Improper?

Under Oregon law, a wage or bank garnishment may be contested. A creditor is required to give you a copy of the Oregon Challenge to Garnishment Form when you receive your copy of the garnishment papers. You must immediately complete the form, submit it to the court that issued the judgment or garnishment, and send a copy to the creditor, employer, or bank that was the target of the garnishment if you believe you have a legitimate claim to contest the garnishment.

If you challenge a garnishment, your money will be delivered to the Multnomah County, Washington County, or Clackamas County court clerk, where it will be kept until the judge makes a decision regarding your challenge. The court will set up a hearing to hear your objection and the evidence supporting it.  You are not required to have a lawyer, but it is your responsibility to establish the legal validity of your challenge.  This is very important because some people mistakenly believe they can challenge a garnishment and immediately get access to the money – NO!  It might take four to six weeks to get a hearing before a Judge in Portland! 

Disputing Underlying Debt

Sadly, you rarely have the option to dispute the underlying debt. The reason is simple – the time to object to the debt is BEFORE the Judge signs the judgment papers.  If you think the Judge was wrong…then you need to go to Court and convince the Judge he/she made a mistake!  Good luck with that.

If your employer overpaid the creditor, you can contest their calculations or challenge the bank if you think the monies garnished were legally protected.

Stay on the Right Track, and Seek Legal Advice Regarding Wage Garnishment Today!

Legal understanding is necessary to successfully contest a garnishment under state law. People who are having their wages withheld typically have additional debts and might benefit from filing for bankruptcy. Michael D. O’Brien and Associates can assist clients in settling debts without becoming bankrupt. 

If your wages are about to be garnished, we can help stop the garnishment. If your wages have already been garnished, we may be able to recover your money. Call our Portland law office or arrange a meeting with one of our Oregon garnishment attorneys if you need assistance stopping creditors from deducting your earnings.

Michael D. O'Brien

Michael D. O'Brien is the Managing Partner of Michael D. O'Brien & Associates, P.C. Michael's main focuses are debt solutions for individuals and small business owners. He is dedicated to understanding client goals and crafting legal strategies to achieve those goals with minimal risk and surprise. This solution frequently involves a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case but can also include civil defense of a collection case and debt negotiation/settlement. Michael also represents individuals and small business owners in Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings.

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