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Garnished Wages Without Notification? Here’s What to Do Next

Money troubles are one of the biggest causes of stress already, and when your disposable income is garnished without warning it is natural to panic. However, you do not need to as long as you know your rights and know what to do next.

The wage garnishment attorneys at The Stiberman Law Firm article will help you understand all of this so you can plan your next move.

Table of Contents

    Your wages can be garnished if you owe child support, alimony, student loans, or back taxes, or a court judgment has been entered against you

    These are certain circumstances in which your wages may be garnished, but even when this does happen you have rights, including a cap on how much can be garnished at one time. It is important you are aware of these so let’s look through them one at a time.

    What Are Your Rights In a Wage Garnishment?

    Wage Garnishments for Court Judgments

    If you are unable to make a loan payment, settle a credit card bill or pay a medical bill then nobody will be able to start garnishing your wages straight away. They will first need to go through the courts, but if you lose the lawsuit then the judgment will be given to the local sheriff, who will then let your employer know and your wages will start to be garnished. However, this cannot be more than 25% of your disposable income per week or the amount higher than 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage your disposable income, whichever is less.

    You may be able to apply for an exemption if the garnishment is preventing you from meeting other costs, but if you want to appeal you will need to apply to the courts for a hearing date. You cannot be fired from your job because of a single-wage garnishment.

    Wage Garnishments for Child Support and Alimony

    There are legally required deductions for child support, which have been in place since 1988 and these will be automatic, but not if only alimony is involved. If child support and alimony are combined then there will be automatic deductions, which will be the full amount owed. If a court orders you to pay child support this order will be sent to your employer, who will pay the other parent out of your wages.

    Up to 50% of your disposable earnings can be taken, under federal law, to pay child support if you are currently supporting a spouse or another child who is not subject to the order. This rises to 60% if you have no other dependents. An additional 5% can be taken if you are more than 12 weeks in arrears but again you cannot be fired from your job due to a judgment such as this.

    Wage Garnishments for Federal Student Loans

    There is actually no court order required for this type of wage garnishment process. The agency trying to collect the loan, or the US Department of Education themselves, can take up to 15% of your disposable income in order to recoup what they are owed but Florida law requires them to inform you in writing at least 30 days before the process begins how much you owe, how to enter a voluntary agreement, how to request a court hearing and how to get hold of the records relating to the loan.

    Wage Garnishments for Back Taxes

    The most serious of consumer debts when it comes to wage garnishment is if you owe money to the IRS. They are able to start garnishing your wages without a court order and this can be a substantial amount of your paycheck. You will be able to request an exemption claim form from your employer, which should come automatically with a wage levy notice that the IRS will have to provide. It is strongly advisable not to get behind with your taxes if it can at all be avoided.

    Who Can Garnish Your Wages?

    So ordinarily it is only judgment creditors who can garnish your wages, but not always.

    Judgment Creditors

    Unless you already have a judgment against you, if you have outstanding credit card debts or owe money to a doctor or any kind of credit company then they will not be able to start garnishing your wages unless they successfully sue you first. Most creditors cannot garnish your wages without a court judgment.

    Creditors That Can Garnish Your Wages Without a Court Judgment

    So remember, it is only agencies connected to student loans, child support or the IRS who can start to garnish your wages without a court order. However, even then they will need to give you notice of this and provide you with the possibility of applying for an exemption.

    How Do I Find Out Who Is Garnishing My Wages?

    Your first port of call if a wage garnishment against you begins is to contact your employer, who should provide you with all of the details. However, if they refuse then you should contact an attorney who deals specifically with this kind of case. They will be able to research the garnishment order and let you know where it comes from and what you may be able to do in order to stop it or at least minimize the impact.

    What wage garnishment laws protect me?

    Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) does protect some, but not all, of your weekly disposable income from garnishment from your employer.

    To understand how this can protect you the most important things to know are:

    • During any pay period, the amount that can be garnished is limited to either 25% of your disposable income or 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. The federal minimum wage is currently £7.25 an hour, so 30 times that would be $217.50.
    • It is important to note that these limits do not apply in certain bankruptcy cases, when the garnishment is due to child support or when the garnishment relates to taxes. The garnishment amount can vary in these cases but they will still have to make you aware of the process and you will have a chance to challenge the claim.

    What to do when you get a garnishment judgment

    If you receive a garnishment judgment against you first of all take a deep breath, make a coffee or beverage of your choice and sit down to thoroughly read all the information in as calm a state of mind as you can. Is all of the information correct? Have you already paid back more than it says you have? Figure out how much you actually owe, how much will be garnished, and what impact this will have on you financially. You may wish to contact a local legal aid or consumer law attorney to work out the best way forward but you have several options.

    Work out a different deal

    When a creditor sues they are looking to get the money back that they are owed. With this in mind, they will appreciate any attempt from you to discuss it with them with a view to paying them back, even if it is at a slower rate than they would ideally like. Figure out your living expenses and any other outgoings you may have and propose a realistic repayment plan. If you can maintain an amicable relationship with the creditors it will be a massive help to you going forward.

    Challenge the judgment

    You can challenge a judgment if you feel it has been made in error, will cause undue harm to you, or has been gone about improperly but this option usually has a small time frame in which you can actually put it into action so make sure you decide quickly whether this is a possibility for you and get in touch with the courts as soon as you can if so.

    Accept the garnishment

    If you are able to pay the garnishment in full, either through savings you may have or through a loan from a family member then this may be less stressful in the long run. However, you can still pay in installments if this is what will be possible for you. It is likely you will not look forward to informing your employer about a wage garnishment order against you but it is best to be upfront about it from the start as it will be better coming from you than from elsewhere. They are not legally entitled to fire you because of the wage garnishment so it is better to explain how it happened and how you are taking steps to ensure it will not become a long-term problem.

    If Your Wages are being garnished, Get Help from a Lawyer Immediately

    A local attorney will be able to help you through the garnishment process so ensure you get in contact as soon as you can. They will be able to explain your rights, help you find a solution, and ensure that everything is done fairly and legally by the creditors. You do not have to go through this alone.

    Contact the Stiberman Law firm today for a free consultation regarding your wage garnishment, and let us help you keep your hard-earned wages.

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