Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 2, 2011

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If your wages are being garnished as a result of student loan default, it is sometimes possible to stop the government or collection agency from accessing your wages. Preventing wage garnishment largely depends on the types of student loans you have defaulted on, and on the financial hardship you’re undergoing as a result of the garnishment.


Federal Student Loan Garnishment


When it comes to federal student loans, the government has authority to enact administrative wage garnishment. This allows the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to recover payment on student loans in default by accessing borrowers’ wages without court order.


The ED can even access federal benefits, such as social security, service member’s pay, military survivor’s compensation, and disability, before you receive them.


The ED can garnish up to 15 percent of an individuals’ disposable income, but cannot garnish any wages without prior notice. Borrowers who are in risk of having their wages garnished must be provided with a notice 30 days prior to the ED accessing any of their wages. The notice must include:

  • Nature and amount of debt owed
  • Chance to inspect records pertaining to the debt
  • Opportunity to avoid garnishment by establishing a voluntarily repayment agreement


Once this notice has been received borrowers can avoid garnishment by:

  • Negotiating repayment terms with the ED or company collecting for the ED
  • Making a hearing request in writing postmarked before the deadline contained in the garnishment notice
  • Providing proof of legal exclusion or financial hardship when requesting an objection to the EDs garnishments


That last point, claiming financial hardship, is where most borrowers will have the opportunity to stop wage garnishment. If the ED’s garnishments are causing you or your family excessive financial hardship, it may be grounds to stop wage garnishment—at least temporarily.


Private Student Loan Garnishment


The difference between private student loans and their federal counter-parts is that private lenders must file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment allowing them to garnish borrowers’ wages.


But once a judgment has been obtained, garnishment by private lenders is harder to stop.


Private lenders can typically garnish more than 15 percent of an individual’s disposable income, but that amount varies from state to state.


In order to stop private lenders from garnishing wages, you will need to contact the lender directly. Each lender has their own policies when it comes to wage garnishment, so procedures on putting garnishment to an end will vary from lender to lender.