If your wages are being garnished, you need to find a solution to resolve the debt fast. Garnished wages mean you have even less income available to pay your bills and obligations. But the process for stopping or reversing wage garnishment can be complex. You may need to hire a lawyer for wage garnishment issues.
Read on to learn how wage garnishment works and how a lawyer may be able to help your situation.
What Does it Mean When Wages Are Garnished?
If you lose a civil court case and end up owing money to the other party through a court judgment, you may have your wages garnished (also known as “wage assignment” or “earnings withholding”). It’s a way to collect money from a worker who owes money to someone else. Wage garnishment happens when you don’t pay the creditor voluntarily and more aggressive steps were taken to get the money from you.
The court doesn’t pay your creditor directly. Instead, if you have a job where you earn income, the creditor can file paperwork with a sheriff or marshall’s office to have a portion of your wages withheld and paid to them instead.
What Wages Can’t Be Garnished?
The good news is that some types of income are exempt from garnishment in most cases. That includes most forms of government-provided income, including
- Social Security benefits
- Disability benefits
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
- Unemployment benefits.
There are certain instances, however, when these forms of income can be garnished, including to pay past-due child support or alimony, court-ordered restitution to a crime victim, back taxes, and non-tax debt owed to a federal agency (like student loans).
Other forms of income, including retirement income, worker’s compensation benefits, life insurance, and annuities are also protected from garnishment.
Certain employees are also protected from wage garnishment by federal law. You need to earn a minimum amount of weekly disposable income to have your wages garnished. If it’s less than 30 times the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), it’s protected from garnishment. That means only disposable income over $217.50 per week can be garnished.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Wage Garnishment?
Whether or not you should hire a lawyer depends on your individual situation and the specific circumstances of your case. If you are facing wage garnishment, it’s important to understand your rights and options. A lawyer can certainly help with this.
Here are a few reasons why you might consider hiring a lawyer for wage garnishment:
- Complex legal issues. If the wage garnishment is due to a complex legal issue, such as a lawsuit or a dispute over a debt, a lawyer can help you understand your rights and navigate the legal system.
- Object to the wage garnishment. If you believe that the wage garnishment is not valid or should be modified, a lawyer can help you object to the wage garnishment and represent you in any court proceedings.
- Help negotiate. A lawyer can also help you negotiate with the creditor or collection agency and try to reach an agreement on a payment plan that works for you.
- Have a clearer idea on exemptions. A lawyer would be more familiar with any exemptions that might be available to you in your state, which may help to reduce the amount of your wages that are garnished.
Let’s dig into some of the specific reasons why you might benefit from hiring a wage garnishment lawyer.
You Need Help Fighting Your Case in Court
If the court ordered your wages to be garnished, but you believe there was an error in this decision, an attorney can represent your case and fight the wage garnishment.
An attorney will be familiar with federal and state laws surrounding wage garnishment and debt collection. They can review your case and determine whether your income is exempt from garnishment, for example, or whether the judgment was obtained correctly in the first place. Or they might find that the creditor violated important laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), or even engaged in fraud.
If you don’t believe you owe the debt in question, an attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to prove it, and make sure that all procedural requirements are met.
The Creditor Is Taking Too Much
Once a creditor files for wage garnishment, you’ll receive a set of paperwork from the court that explains how much money will be taken from your paycheck every pay period. Wage garnishment as the result of a judgment allows for 25% of your wages to be withheld (as long as you meet federal and state income minimums).
However, there is a chance that the wrong amount is being garnished. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need a lawyer to verify how much — if anything — should be garnished. Then they’ll help you build a case and get the situation remedied in court.
Note that it is possible to challenge the garnishment amount on your own. But it’s a complex and expensive process that can be streamlined with the help of a lawyer.
You Want to Negotiate
Creditors are often willing to work out a revised payment plan or settlement. That’s especially true if they believe you will have to file for bankruptcy otherwise. You can avoid wage garnishment if you enter into a voluntary payment plan.
Again, this is something you could do yourself, but having a lawyer by your side makes it much easier and faster. A lawyer who is familiar with wage garnishment laws and has strong negotiation skills can help you work out a new plan with your creditors. They can get you the best deal possible that works for your budget and puts and end to wage garnishment.
You Need to File for Bankruptcy
In some cases, bankruptcy is the best solution available to a major debt problem. A bankruptcy attorney can help guide you in making that decision. They can also help you choose the correct type of bankruptcy for your situation and navigate the process of filing.
There are two main types of bankruptcy for individuals:
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which involves liquidating your assets to pay off creditors
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows you to keep your assets and restructures your debt so it’s paid off in 3-5 years.
Regardless of which one you choose, filing bankruptcy results in an “automatic stay.” This puts a stop to actions by creditors, including wage garnishment.
Find a Reputable Wage Garnishment Attorney
If your wages are being garnished, it’s important to seek legal counsel. Wage garnishment lowers your earnings and makes it even more difficult to stay on top of bills. A reputable and experienced lawyer can help reduce or even stop wage garnishment. Tayne Law Group has been assisting clients with debt relief for more than 20 years. Our law firm finds solutions that work for your budget so you can get back on your feet quickly. Call us at (866) 890-7337 or fill out our short contact form to get a free consultation and find out which options may work for you.