Official State of Iowa Website

Debt Collection After a Judgment Is Entered Against You

If a debt collector gets a judgment against you, one way they can collect the money you owe is through garnishment. A “garnishment” is a court order that allows a creditor who is owed money to take the property of the debtor. This usually means garnishing the debtor’s wages. 

More information on collecting a judgment in Iowa is available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website.

Wage garnishment (taking money from your paycheck)

The most common form of garnishment is wage garnishment, where money is taken from your pay before you receive your paycheck. Iowa Code chapter 642 covers garnishment in detail.Hand pointing to documents with a gold ribbon

Both federal law and state law place limits on how much can be garnished from your wages. Iowa Code section 642.21 limits how much can be garnished from your wages during a single calendar year, while federal laws (15 U.S.C. section 1673 and 35 C.F.R. part 870) place a limit on how much can be garnished each week. Those limits relate to your “disposable earnings,” meaning the earnings you have left after deductions required by law, such as state and federal taxes. The Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #30 provides useful information on wage garnishment limits under federal law.

Exempt property

Certain property is exempt from execution, meaning a debt collector cannot take it. Exemptions are listed in Iowa Code section 627.6. Exemptions include things like wedding rings, burial plots, and one motor vehicle (not to exceed $7,000 in value). The Iowa Judicial Branch’s Small Claims Form 3.21: Affidavit of Property Exempt from Execution is helpful in seeing the variety of property that is exempt.

Keep in mind that garnishment in some cases, such as bankruptcy, child or spousal support, and state or federal taxes, can have different limits and exemptions.

Once a judgment is entered against you, you may also be called for a debtor's exam. You can read more about this on our page The Debtor's Exam Process

For more information on Debt Collection, see Iowa Legal Aid’s Debt Collection, Garnishment, Repossession page and the Iowa Judicial Branch’s FAQ on garnishment.