In Illinois, debtors have more protections against wage garnishments than they have under federal law. In most cases, a creditor will have to sue you and get a judgment before garnishing your wages, so wage garnishments don't typically come suddenly. If you want to fight a garnishment, however, you'll need to appear in court and show evidence that you don't owe a debt.
Gross Wage Calculation
Illinois law allows creditors to take 15 percent of your gross wages. This doesn't, however, mean that such a high percentage is mandated. Further, if you have multiple garnishments, the total amount of the garnishment can't exceed 15 percent. For example, a credit card garnishment of 10 percent of your wages would mean that a second credit card garnishment could be no more than 5 percent.
Disposable Income Calculation
Creditors can also calculate your garnishment based on your disposable income. The law allows creditors to choose the lesser of 25 percent of your gross wages or any disposable income that exceeds 30 times the Illinois minimum wage, which is $8.25 an hour at the time of publication. Disposable income is the income you have left after your taxes and other payroll deductions -- such as child support and alimony -- are taken from your check.
Wages That Can't Be Garnished
Not all earnings can be garnished. Illinois specifically prohibits creditors from garnishing most pensions, welfare benefits, Social Security income, unemployment benefits, black lung payments, alimony and child support, veterans' benefits and unemployment payments. Creditors can only garnish wages, so independent contractors and other self-employed people can be completely immune from wage garnishment orders.
Wage Garnishment Exceptions
Illinois allows creditors to garnish some wages without obtaining a judgment. This exception is limited to unpaid income taxes and defaulted loans. If a court orders you to pay child support, this money -- as well as any child support currently in arrears -- can also be garnished without a court judgment. You'll typically receive notice that a garnishment is pending and receive one last opportunity to pay before the garnishment is issued.
A judgment may include the actual amount you owe the creditor plus interest, late fees, attorney's fees and court costs. Your creditors are specifically limited by the amount of the judgment against you. Consequently, your wages can't be indefinitely garnished, and the garnishment must end once you've paid the amount of the judgment. If a creditor believes you owe more money, he'll have to obtain another judgment before garnishing your wages again.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.