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Collecting on A Judgment in Illinois: The Wage Deduction Proceeding

If you have a judgment and the judgment debtor is employed and earning wages, a wage deduction proceeding is a powerful tool for collecting on that judgment. In Illinois, collecting on a judgment via a wage garnishment is a statutory proceeding that allows for the enforcement of judgment via a wage deduction order and creates a continuing lien that continues until the judgment is satisfied. A judgment debtor must be given notice of the wage deduction proceeding and a right to hearing if he so chooses. If the Court finds that a wage deduction order is appropriate, the Court will enter an order whereby a percentage of the judgment debtor’s wages are paid to a creditor until the judgment is satisfied.

The process begins with the judgment creditor serving the employer with a wage deduction summons. Upon service of the summons, a lien is created on the debtor’s wages immediately. It is important that an employer take this seriously. If the employer fails to answer the wage deduction proceedings and/or fails to withhold the wages, a conditional judgment for the entire amount of the judgment may be entered against it. In addition, if multiple wage deduction proceedings are initiated against a judgment creditor, the employer should honor them in the order in which they are first served/received on the employer, and the first in time wage deduction summons should receive priority and be paid in full until the second wage collection payment should begin.

Under 735 ILCS 5/12-803, the amount of wages available for collection is 15 percent of gross wages or the amount by which disposable earnings for a week exceed 45 times the greater of the federal and Illinois minimum wage. A creditor can initiate a wage deduction proceeding pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/12-801, but it is imperative that there is a final and valid judgment first. Thereafter, the creditor or their attorney can prepare the wage deduction notice, a wage deduction affidavit (with interrogatories on the affidavit) and a wage deduction summons. These forms must be filed with the clerk of court. The wage deduction summons will have to be served by a sheriff or process server on the employer, depending on the local rules of the county you are filing the proceeding in. The return date is the date listed on your summons and the date the employer is to respond by, so long as the employer was properly and timely served.

If you are an employer who receives a wage deduction, make sure to answer the interrogatories served upon you via the wage deduction proceeding in a timely fashion and file the answer with the court and serve it upon the opposing counsel and the employee so they are aware that their wages will be garnished once the creditor enters the appropriate wage deduction order in court (which is known as the return date).

Once a wage deduction order is entered, the creditor is required to send a judgment balance certification to the employer each calendar quarter, until the judgment is satisfied. Please note, there are certain types of employers (such as federal employees, postal service employees, armed force employees, etc.) that have specific and special requirements for service of wage deduction summons, so if you are dealing with a government employee of any sort, make sure to check to confirm whether the employer you are serving is subject to any special requirements in terms of proceeding on a wage deduction proceeding. Interested in learning more about collecting on judgments?