Appellate Law Update: Courts Can’t Modify Garnishments Without Reason

If you work for an Ohio bank or credit union, you’ve probably tried to garnish a debtor’s wages. If so, you’ve likely run into a court that reduced the amount you can take per pay period. For example, it’s common for some courts to reduce the garnished amount just because the debtor complains—even if Ohio and federal law allow for more. Can Ohio’s courts do this? No, according to the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which recently overruled a Toledo Municipal Court order that reduced a wage garnishment simply because the debtor complained about it.[1]

In Lucas County Job and Family Services v. Joshaway,[2] Lucas County got a judgment against Ms. Joshaway for about $6,000 and garnished her wages to collect it. Eventually, she complained to the municipal court that paying $150 to Lucas County per pay period was too much. In response and without any analysis, the municipal court held that “We’ll modify this [garnishment] not to exceed one hundred per pay period.” Lucas County appealed.

On appeal, the Sixth District found that the municipal court lacked jurisdiction to modify the garnishment because “there is a complete absence of anything in the record concerning the personal earnings of … [Ms. Joshaway].” The appellate court also found that the municipal court failed to analyze whether the amount garnished exceeded federal caps on allowable garnishments. In short, the appellate court held that a trial court can’t simply modify a garnishment because the debtor complains. Instead, the debtor must prove that garnishment exceeds the debtor’s disposable earnings—something that almost never occurs.

Although the Joshaway case is great authority for Ohio creditors, it’s always important to take garnishment objections seriously. If you are faced with a garnishment hearing, consider consulting legal counsel who can guide you through the process to maximize your recovery.


[1] The Sixth District Court of Appeals governs much of Northwest Ohio, including the Toledo, Ohio area. Its jurisdiction is comprised of Erie, Fulton, Huron, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood Counties.

[2] Lucas County Job and Family Services v. Joshaway, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-15-1277, 2016-Ohio-5071.

Categories: Recent Articles