Article XVI, Section 28 of the Texas Constitution

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As amended November 2, 1999:

No current wages for personal service shall ever be subject to garnishment, except for the enforcement of court-ordered: (1) child support payments; or (2) spousal maintenance.

Editor Comments

As adopted in 1876, this section read: "No current wages for personal service shall ever be subject to garnishment."

It has been amended twice. The first exception was added in 1983 and the second exception was added in 1999.

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Dalton v. Dalton, 551 S.W.3d 126, 136 (Tex. 2018) ("Finally, Carol argues that because, under Oklahoma law, the Oklahoma order incorporating the Daltons’ agreement 'extinguished' the agreement and left only a court order enforceable as a judgment, see . . . . Again, we disagree. Although the order constitutes a spousal-support judgment under Oklahoma law, it is not a spousal-maintenance award under Texas law. The full-faith-and-credit clause requires Texas to accept the Oklahoma order as a final judgment, but our Constitution and Chapter 8 allow wage withholding only to enforce spousal maintenance. Wage withholding is not available to support all spousal-support judgments in Texas.")

Historic Decisions

  • Orange County v. Ware, 819 S.W.2d 472, 474 (Tex. 1991) ("As Benton acknowledges, offsetting mutual obligations between two parties is not garnishment. That fact alone renders article XVI, section 28 inapplicable. The language of article XVI, section 28 of the Constitution quite specifically restricts the use of garnishments and not things like garnishments or all debt collection efforts generally. The distinctions are important. For example, it is one thing for an employer to loan an employee money with the employee's agreement and consent that repayments will be deducted from future wages; it is quite . . . . The law may restrict the right of offset, as Benton notes, but the Constitution does not.")
  • Caulley v. Caulley, 806 S.W.2d 795, 798-99 (Tex. 1991) (J. Mauzy, concurring) (citations omitted) ("The constitutional framers included the garnishment exemption as a reaction to the great expansion of creditor's remedies during the early part of the nineteenth century. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, garnishment was the only judicial mechanism available by which a creditor could effectively seize cash, paychecks or wages from a debtor. Despite this fact, the constitutional framers sought to protect wages through the broad language adopted in . . . . This Court has recognized that as times and circumstances change, terms of art and law must be willing to change with them.")
  • Bell v. Indian Live-Stock Co., 11 S.W. 344, 346 (Tex. 1889) ("While we think it clear that the money in the hands of the garnishee was due to Addington as wages for personal service, within the meaning of that phrase as used in our constitution and statutes, we are also of opinion that the money had ceased to be current wages, and that it was subject to the writ of garnishment. The wages were payable monthly, and were exempt for the month current at the time of the service of the writ, but the exemption ceased to apply when the wages became past due. Cases may arise . . . . It appears that the wages were voluntarily left by Addington in the hands of the garnishee, and were past due.")

Library Resources

Online Resources