Garnishment of wages

What does Garnishment of wages mean?

Wage garnishment is a legal option authorized by court which allows an entity, business, or the state or federal government to take a certain portion of a worker's paycheck to repay a debt or financial obligation.

The wage garnishment is deducted by the employer and generally only allowed after a court order has been issued. Wage garnishments are allowed to collect IRS or state tax debt, child support or spousal support payments, medical debts or credit card debts. Some states, however, bar wage garnishment for certain types of consumer debts.

How much can be taken?

Wage garnishments are limited by Title III of the Consumer Protection Act. The law also protects a certain percentage of the employee's wages, commissions, bonuses and salaries. Under the law there is a set amount of money which can be garnished each pay period, regardless of the amount owed or the number of garnishment orders.

The amount owed, however, may vary based on the type of garnishment. For example, for garnishment other than for child support, bankruptcy, or any state or federal tax debts the law limits the garnishment to either "25% of the employee's disposable earnings, or the amount by which an employee's disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour)."

Child support wage garnishments are paid out at a higher rate. For instance, current child support garnishment laws allow 50% of an employee's disposable income to be taken for child support, assuming the worker has another child or a spouse. If the worker is not supporting anyone but him or herself the law allows up to 60% of their disposable income to be garnished.

Other federal or state wage garnishments or bankruptcy court garnishments are exempt from the rules outlined above and are not limited by the current wage garnishment law.

Stopping a wage garnishment

Some wage garnishments can be stopped through bankruptcy, by responding to the creditor and paying the debts, seeking state-specific remedies, getting credit debt counseling, objecting to the garnishment, arguing the creditor did not follow the proper wage garnishment procedures, filing bankruptcy, disputing the judgment, continued negotiations, or proving the creditor has already received payment for the debt.

Unfortunately, there are some types of debts, such as child support and spousal support payments that cannot be stopped through the methods outlined above. In some cases you will simply have to meet your debt obligations. If your financial position has changed you may also return to court and attempt to have the payments lowered.

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