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Can my husband's wages be garnished for my credit card debt in MN?

Farmington, MN |

I lost my job and all we have is his salary for our family of 3 children. We don't have enough to pay bills every month right now so some crd. cards have not been paid. I want to pay them, but they are unwillling to work with me on a low temp payment schedule til we can do more. He is not a joint user on any of the accounts but I did get them after we were married.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Except for student loans & government debts, wage garnishment can only occur when a creditor has sued someone & obtained a court judgment against them. You can't garnish someone not named in the lawsuit.

    However, if the wages are then deposited into a joint bank account, the creditor can do an end run & take the money out of the bank account instead of directly taking the wages.

    Hope this perspective helps!


  2. I disagree with the earlier answer. Minnesota, like many other states, has a "necessities" law on its books (or recognized through court decisions). The necessities doctrine is one in which a spouse is liable for the debts of another if those debts were incurred for "necessities" - like food, gas, medical, etc. I see spouses sued all the time for debts their significant others incur - it doesn't matter if the other name isn't on the account. If you incurred these debts while married, and these debts could in any way be argued to be for a "necessity," then they certainly can sue your husband, obtain a judgment, and then garnish his wages. I do agree that, if you have a joint account, they can levy that account even if they don't have a judgment with your husband's name on it. Also, no credit card company is required to "work with you" - they are entitled to be paid what you agreed to pay them. As a practical matter, many do try to work something out to avoid garnishment, etc., but they aren't required to do so.

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  3. If he was named in a lawsuit for the credit card then, yes.
    Unless he was an authorized user or cardholder on the account, his wages cannot be sued for the debt. Minnesota's "necessities" exception is an exception to the general rule that spouses are not liable for each others debts. Minn. Stat. Section 519.05 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=519.05) The doctrine of necessaries allows a creditor to go after the spouse if the debt was incurred for the benefit of the entire household. I have successfully defended claims against spouses on the basis that the credit card debt was not incurred primarily for the benefit of the entire household.
    Minnesota garnishment law is different from most other states. A lawsuit is started by serving a Summons and Complaint - not by filing it with a court. And if you do not answer the lawsuit, the creditor can serve a garnishment before the case is ever filed with any court. Your bank accounts could be garnished without warning at any time 40 days or more after you are served with a lawsuit. If it is a joint account, all of the funds will be frozen and the non-debtor spouse has the burden of proving the money belongs to them. The creditor has to give you notice before garnishing your wages.

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