A wage garnishment occurs when a court orders a portion of a person’s earnings to be withheld to satisfy a debt. When your wages are being garnished, the payroll department at your job will calculate the amount to be withheld and pay it to the creditor on your behalf.
When you have your wages garnished, this can wreak havoc with your life. If you have ignored your creditors so long that you now face a wage garnishment, there may be a few things you can do to make this less detrimental to your financial life.
Reasons Your Wages Can Be Garnished Without a Court Order
If you owe back income taxes, court ordered child support, or you have defaulted on your student loans, you can be forced to pay back these debts through a wage garnishment. In these particular cases, creditors do not have to sue you, and will get an automatic wage garnishment to satisfy the debt. Therefore, it is always best to work out a payment arrangement with your creditors before they are able to get a wage garnishment.
It’s important to know that if you owe back child support, the percentage of your wages that can be garnished is 50% if you are caring for a child, and 60% if you do not have a child in your care. In addition, if you owe back child support for more than twelve weeks, an additional 5% of your wages can be garnished.
This is a higher percentage than what is allowed to be withheld due to credit card debt, which is 25%.
What Can You Do About a Wage Garnishment?
Sometimes the answer to this question is nothing. If you owe the money, and you didn’t settle with your creditors prior to court, there’s no reason for your creditor to accept anything less than the wage garnishment.
If you believe that too much of your paycheck is being garnished, you can meet with an attorney to discuss the limits for each type of garnishment. In general, the most that can be taken from your wages in a garnishment is 25%. This means that if you have more than one outstanding debt being garnished, the total can only add up to 25%.
In special circumstances, your wages can be garnished at a higher rate if you are found in contempt of a court order to pay child support debts. If you have been unable to pay because of a loss of income, it’s important to go to court for the contempt hearing and explain your situation to the judge. While you will still have to pay back child support, you may be able to get a reduced order for the future because of your lost wages.