The state of Maine gives creditors the right to garnish the wages of residents who fail to pay their debt. If you live in Maine, the creditor who wants to garnish your wages must first file a lawsuit against you and prove to the court that you owe the money. If the judge agrees with the creditor, the latter can then ask the court for an order to garnish your wages.
In Maine, a creditor can file a lawsuit against you in small claims court or district court in the county where you live or where the basis of the lawsuit happened. As of the time of publication, the claim limit in small claims court is $6,000, excluding interest and extra costs, such as filing fees. If you disagree with the lawsuit and fail to file an answer with the court or to show up for your hearing, you will likely lose the case.
Withholding Limit on Creditor Garnishments
Ordinary creditors, such as those collecting for hospital or credit card debts, may garnish the lesser of 25 percent of your disposable wages or the amount by which your disposable wages are more than 40 times the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is more. Your disposable wages are your earnings after legally required deductions. As of the publication date, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Maine’s minimum wage is $7.50 per hour.
Child Support and Government Debts
Up to 50 percent of a debtor’s wages may be garnished for child support in Maine, according to the state's website. The U.S. Department of Education, Internal Revenue Service and Maine Revenue Services, respectively, don’t need a court order to garnish your wages for unpaid student loans, federal taxes and state taxes. As with creditor lawsuits, these agencies notify the debtor of their intent to garnish beforehand. They proceed with the garnishment only after the debtor fails to respond in a timely manner or make payment arrangements.
Interest and Statute of Limitations
Creditor judgments obtained in Maine accrue interest at the rate stated in the contract or set by state law. For instance, post-judgments accrue interest at 6.16 percent in 2013. Creditors can add interest to the delinquent debt, also called prejudgment interest, at the rate stated in the contract or set by state law. Prejudgments accrue interest at 3.16 percent in 2013. A creditor has six years to file a lawsuit for a delinquent debt and 20 years to act on a judgment. This means the creditor can wait many years to execute the judgment through wage garnishment.
Employment Termination Rules
Federal law doesn't allow your employer to fire you because it received one wage garnishment against you. Maine law states that your employer cannot terminate you because of a wage garnishment from an ordinary creditor. Unlike federal law, which specifically states the discharge protection is for just one creditor, Maine law does not state the number of creditors, according to the Nolo website. Employers must consider both federal and state garnishment procedures and apply the law that gives the debtor the most benefits.
- State of Maine Judicial Branch: A Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the Maine District Court
- Pine Tree Legal Assistance: Debt Collection in the Maine Courts
- Maine Legislature: Limitation on Garnishment
- U.S. Department of Labor: Minimum Wage Laws in the States -- January 1, 2014
- Nolo: Maine Wage Garnishment Laws
- State of Maine Judicial Branch: Writs of Execution -- Post-Judgment Interest Rate
- State of Maine Judicial Branch: Writs of Execution -- Pre-Judgment Interest Rate
- Protecting Consumer Rights: Maine Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.