Hardship Exemption in Wage Garnishment Laws in Oklahoma

Consider hiring an attorney if you need to file a motion with the court.
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If you live in Oklahoma, creditors can garnish your wages for unpaid debts. To garnish your wages, a creditor must first file a lawsuit against you and then obtain a court-ordered judgment and wage garnishment. If the garnishment will cause you financial hardship, you can file an undue hardship exemption claim with the court that authorized it.

Garnishment Limit and Undue Hardship

In Oklahoma, regular creditors -- such as hospitals and credit card companies -- can take up to 25 percent of your take-home income. As of 2014, you must have at least $217.50 per week left over after the garnishment deduction. Otherwise, the entire 25 percent cannot be withheld from your pay. If you have a family to support and the garnishment will cause undue hardship, you may qualify for an exemption. To obtain the exemption, you must prove to the court that your household expenses absorb all of your wages, leaving you with nothing to give the creditor.

Time Frame for Filing a Claim

When your employer receives a garnishment order, it must give you a copy of the notice and the “Claim for Exemption and Request for Hearing” form. If your employer does not give you the form, you can get it from the courthouse that issued the garnishment. File your claim within five days of receiving the garnishment notice. If you miss the filing deadline, you can still request an exemption hearing, but you will have to file a “Motion” instead of a claim. There is no fee for filing a claim within the five-day period, but you might have to pay a fee for filing a motion, according to the OKLaw website.

Hardship Claim Form Completion and Filing

When filling out the hardship claim form, include your case number, the name of the creditor, the garnishment amount, the number of family members overall and the number children in your household, the balances of all bank accounts and a breakdown of your income and expenses. Mail the original form to the court and send a copy to the creditor or the creditor’s attorney. After filing the form with the court, you will receive a hearing date and time. Take with you to the hearing proof of earnings and expenses, such as pay stubs, utility bills and rent receipts.

Factors Affecting the Judge's Decision

The judge considers various factors to determine whether the garnishment will cause you undue hardship. This includes the income and expenses of your family and dependents, your standard of living, and the minimum level of income necessary to meet your family’s basic needs, including food, shelter, clothing and transportation.

Possible Outcomes of Hearing

If the judge agrees with your hardship claim, she may stop the garnishment or change your withholding to a smaller amount for a specific period up to the duration of the garnishment. This duration is typically 180 days after the effective date of the garnishment. You might be entitled to a refund of all or part of the garnishment amounts withheld from your wages 30 days before you filed your claim. If your exemption expires and the garnishment will still cause you undue hardship, you may apply for another exemption.

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