If a creditor takes money from your wages
If a creditor takes money for child maintenance, council tax or benefit debts
If the council is taking money to pay off council tax arrears, there are special rules about how it works. Find out more about dealing with council tax arrears.
If your order is for child maintenance arrears, it’s called a ‘deductions from earnings order’. You can find out what to do if you have a deductions from earnings order.
If you have benefit debts, talk to an adviser.
If you owe money for things like a bank loan or credit card, your creditor might try to get a court order to take money from your wages.
They can only do this if they’ve already been to court to get a county court judgment against you. You can check what happens when your creditor takes you to court to get a county court judgement.
The court will work out what you should pay and take that amount from your wages each time you get paid. This is called an 'attachment of earnings order'.
Your creditor can't apply for an attachment of earnings order if you owe them less than £50 or if you're:
in the army, airforce or navy - there’s a separate process for creditors to take money from your wages
employed on a boat, except a fishing boat
If your creditor says they'll take money from your wages
If your creditor has told you they’re going to apply for an attachment of earnings order, you should contact them straight away. You might be able to agree a payment plan and stop them applying for the order.
If you have other debts or you can’t come to an arrangement with your creditor, get advice as soon as possible from your nearest Citizens Advice.
If you've got a reply form from the court
If you’ve got the ‘replying to an attachment of earnings application’ or ‘N56’ form, it means your creditor has applied to take money from your wages.
Don’t ignore the form - it’s really important you complete it and return it to the court before the deadline.
If you don't send the reply form back before the deadline
Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’ve missed the deadline. It’s a criminal offence not to fill the form in or to give false information. This means you could go to prison.
The court might go straight to your employer and ask them to provide details of your earnings so they can make the order.
Filling in the reply form
You’ll have to give details of your income, expenses and debts on the form. If you have time, get debt advice from your nearest Citizens Advice. Don’t let this delay you sending the form back.
Ask the court if you can pay your creditor directly
If the order will cause you hardship, you can tick a box to ask the court for a ‘suspended attachment of earnings order’. This would allow you to pay your creditor directly without involving your employer.
You’ll need to give the reasons why you think you should get a suspended order. For example, if:
you won't be able to pay bills
you'll lose your job
You still need to pay your creditor if you get a suspended order. If you miss payments your creditor can reapply for an order to take money from your wages.
You should tell your creditor you’re applying for a suspended order and the reasons why. You should also tell them about any debt advice you’re getting.
If you’ve already talked to your creditor and they’ve agreed to let you pay back what you owe in a different way, you should say this on the form. You should also tell the court if you’re getting debt advice so they know you’re trying to sort your debt out.
If there isn’t room on the form, you can add an extra sheet as a witness statement.
Your employer will know about your attachment of earnings order - unless it’s suspended. If your job is affected by the order, talk to an adviser.
After the order is made
The court will send you a letter telling you how much will be taken from your wages each month. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if the payments mean you don’t have enough to live on.
Changing the amount you pay back
You can apply to the court to change the order if you think too much money is being taken out of your wages. You’ll have to pay to change to the order. Check to see if you can get help on GOV.UK.
You’ll need to complete a form called ‘N244’ and explain why you can’t afford the payments. You can find form N244 on GOV.UK.
You’ll have to go to court for a hearing and a judge will decide if they can change the order.
If you change or leave your job
If you leave your job, the attachment of earnings order stops being paid but it isn’t cancelled. You’ll start making payments again when you get a new job.
You must tell the court about your new employer within 7 days. If you don’t, it’s a criminal offence.
If you’re out of work for a long time, you could ask the court to cancel the order. You might have to fill in a form - call the court first to find out how to cancel the order.
If you have other attachment of earnings orders
You can ask the court to let you pay all your court orders in one monthly payment, so you don’t have to pay your creditors separately. This is called a ‘consolidated attachment of earnings order’.
If you get a consolidated order, the money you owe will be taken out of your wages by your employer and sent to the court. The court will pay each of your creditors.
The court will take 10p for every £1.00 in each monthly payment - this means a consolidated order will cost you more.
Steve owes £1000 and pays £50 a month to two creditors. If he has a consolidated attachment of earnings order, the court will take £5 a month and pay £45 to his creditors.
If you already have an attachment of earnings order, you can ask for a consolidated order if:
you’ve had a letter from another creditor saying they’ve applied for an attachment of earnings order
you have more than one attachment of earnings orders
Applying for a consolidated attachment of earnings order
You can apply for a consolidated attachment of earnings order by writing to the court. In the letter you should include details of all the court orders you want the court to consolidate.
You should also include a budget summary in the letter, with details of all your outgoings and income. You can use a budget tool to make a budget summary. Make clear how much you can afford to pay in total on the new order.
The court will decide if they can make the order - it’s unusual for them to refuse. The court will send you details of the new order. Your creditor can stop you getting a consolidated order made - they’ll have 14 days to tell the court.
Page last reviewed on 12 March 2021