Having your wages garnished for the first time can be scary and confusing. A wage garnishment is a legal process that allows a creditor to collect part of the debts you owe from your wages until the debt is cleared. You may be wondering if you have any options to stop garnishment.
Depending on your current financial situation, you may be able to challenge certain wage garnishments. You will want to consult with an attorney to see if it’s possible to stop a garnishment. In an ideal situation, you should take action within 30 days before the wage garnishment process starts.
Understanding Wage Garnishments
Wage garnishments can be put in place in two ways: either through an administrative order or by a court judgement.
Wage garnishment through administrative orders are situations where a creditor is obliged to garnish debtors’ wages without first obtaining a judgment. Such scenarios include debts like spousal support, student loans, back taxes, and child support.
Garnishment through judgment is where a creditor can collect a portion of your wages to settle a debt from a court judgment they have obtained against you. The creditor must file for wage garnishment in a court in order to garnish your wages.
The Limits of Garnishment
After a garnishment judgement is issued, you will receive information on the amount of money that will be taken from your wages.
The general rule is that it should not exceed 25% of your disposable income. Disposable income is the money you have left after all legal deductions. They include state or federal taxes, medical insurance, social security, among others.
If your wage is near minimum, the deductions should not exceed an amount 30 times what the federal minimum per hourly wage is. However, this does not apply in cases of past or present child support debts.
Additionally, some states may have different requirements and limits on how much of a person’s wages can be garnished. If you have a lower income, it’s more likely that garnishment can be stopped due to these types of limits. Consult with a wage garnishment lawyer to see what options you have in your particular state.
What if a creditor fails to comply with a wage exemption and withdraws from your bank account?
Wage garnishment documents indicate how much that should be taken from your paycheck. Just because the judgement creditor can access your account for deduction doesn’t mean they can take more than is stipulated. You can have your attorney go over the paperwork to ensure all legal procedures are followed.
File for a bankruptcy petition
A successful bankruptcy petition can stop a wage garnishment immediately. If your financial situation is in tatters and you cannot pay what you do not have, then this may be the best option for you. However, a bankruptcy petition cannot stop an income deduction that pays for either spousal or child support. You can have your attorney help you understand what this means for your particular situation.
It is illegal for your employer to fire you because you are facing a wage garnishment. However, you can get fired from your work for other reasons. Payment of wage garnishments will stop 90 days after your termination. If you are facing more than one wage garnishment, the subsequent garnishments can only start once the first garnishment is paid in full.