Garnishing Wages in Ontario: What You Need to Know

Garnishing wages is a legal process through which a creditor can collect unpaid debts directly from a debtor’s earnings. In Ontario, this process is governed by strict regulations to ensure fairness and transparency. Understanding the intricacies of wage garnishment can help both debtors and creditors navigate this challenging financial situation.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment, also known as wage attachment, involves a court order directing an employer to withhold a portion of an employee’s earnings to pay off a debt. This debt can stem from various obligations, including unpaid loans, credit card debt, child support, or tax arrears.

Legal Framework in Ontario

In Ontario, the process of garnishing wages is outlined in the Ontario Wages Act. Creditors must obtain a court judgment to garnish wages legally. This judgment confirms that the debtor owes money and specifies the amount to be deducted from their earnings. It’s essential for creditors to follow the proper legal procedures, as unauthorized garnishments are illegal.

Steps to Garnish Wages

  1. Obtain a Court Judgment: The creditor must file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against the debtor.
  2. File a Garnishment Order: Once the judgment is secured, the creditor can request a garnishment order from the court.
  3. Serve the Employer: The garnishment order is then served to the debtor’s employer, who is legally obligated to comply.

Limits on Wage Garnishment

Ontario law sets limits on the amount that can be garnished from a debtor’s wages. Typically, the maximum amount that can be garnished is 20% of the debtor’s net income. However, for debts related to child or spousal support, up to 50% of net income can be garnished. These limits ensure that debtors retain sufficient income to cover basic living expenses.

Rights of Debtors

Debtors have rights and protections under Ontario law. They must receive a notice of garnishment, allowing them to contest the garnishment if there are valid reasons, such as financial hardship or errors in the garnishment order. Debtors can also seek a reduction in the garnishment amount by applying for a variation order from the court.

Impact on Employers

Upon receiving a garnishment order, employers must withhold the specified amount from the employee’s wages and remit it to the court or directly to the creditor. Employers are prohibited from firing or disciplining an employee solely because of a wage garnishment.

Avoiding Wage Garnishment

For debtors, avoiding wage garnishment often involves proactive measures, such as negotiating payment plans with creditors, seeking debt counseling, or considering debt consolidation options. Addressing financial issues early can prevent the need for legal action and wage garnishment.


Garnishment wages in Ontario is a structured process designed to balance the rights of creditors and debtors. By understanding the legal framework and rights involved, individuals and businesses can manage their financial obligations more effectively. Whether you are a debtor facing garnishment or a creditor seeking debt recovery, navigating this process with awareness and legal compliance is crucial for a fair outcome.


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