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What is Wage Garnishment?

Having your wages garnished is a very difficult thing. You work hard to pay your rent or mortgage, the utility bills keep going up, and sometimes you don’t even know if you are going to be able to put gas in your car. You have a family to support and living paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth, is killing you. Then the unthinkable happens! Your employer starts taking money out of your paycheck. When you go to Human Resources, they tell you there is nothing that can be done because it is the law. You’ve suffered a severe cut in pay just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse! You have to know: what is a garnishment and what are your rights?

What a Garnishment Can Mean To You

What is a garnishment to you? It is a legal requirement your boss, or employer, take money you earned out of your paycheck and in many cases there is nothing your boss, or employer, can do. If they don’t take the money out of your check, they can be in legal trouble with the court that ordered your garnishment. Even though garnishment law varies from state to state, and court to court, what usually happens is as follows. You have been sued and have lost in court. A judgment has been entered against you in favor of the person that sued you. This person is usually called a plaintiff or a petitioner. The judgment can be for anything, and usually it is for anything from personal injury, child support, alimony, breach of contract, or even a defaulted lease or car payment. Even if the judgment is wrong, you have to legally pay it, so sometimes the court will order your boss, or employer, to take money out of your paycheck until the judgment is paid.

What You Can Do About A Garnishment

What Is Wage Garnishment?A garnishment usually starts in court. You are sued and lose, either by fighting in court and getting a judgment against you, or by not showing up in court and getting a default judgment against you. The judgment can be for child support, alimony, taxes, payments you didn’t make on your car, or your apartment or house mortgage, and a bunch of other things. This judgment is a legal debt you have to pay and sometimes you are forced to pay it through a garnishment. What is garnishment, exactly, is usually a court order that goes to your boss, or employer, and it says because you have been sued and owe money, you have to have money taken out of your paycheck until the whole judgment is paid. Usually your boss, or employer, can take between 25% and 60% of your hard earned money out of your paycheck.

Garnishment Law

Now that we have answered the question what is a garnishment, we can talk about your rights. Federal Law gives you some rights so you don’t get everything taken out of your paycheck. The Consumer Credit Protection Act gives you the following rights, plus others:
  1. You can’t be fired because you have been garnished for “any one debt”
  2. You usually can’t have more than 25% of you disposable money taken out of your paycheck for ordinary debts
  3. You usually can’t have more than 50% to 60% of your disposable money taken out for child support, bankruptcy, or taxes

Go to Your Human Resources Department About the Garnishment

As soon as you know you are being garnished, go straight to your Human Resources Department. If you work at a small company, you may not have a Human Resources Department, so you should go to see the payroll person. They have probably handled a lot of garnishments and know all about it and can help. Don’t worry because if this is your first garnishment or garnished debt, you can’t be fired just because you have been garnished. You are safe. Even if you have done your research, ask all the questions. What is garnishment? How much can you take out of my check and why? Is there anything we can do? Did the math get done right?

Go See a Garnishment Lawyer

If you don’t get any help from your Human Resources Department or Payroll, it is wise to go see a lawyer. There are many things that can be done to fight a bad garnishment. It is always smart to first look for a lawyer that gives free consultations so you don’t have to spend any money to get an adequate assessment of your rights and what you can do to survive this catastrophe. The Internet and the Yellow Pages are good places to look. Just like you did with your Human Resources or Payroll Department, ask the lawyer all the questions. What is garnishment? What are my rights? What can we do given all my circumstances? What are my chances of winning? How much will your representation cost and is it worth it? Also always remember that getting two opinions can only help.

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Things You Can Do to Fight Wage Garnishment

Wage garnishment is a terrible thing to endure. You work hard all day and put in crazy overtime just to be told your hard earned money is coming out of your check. You knew you were being sued for a car payment, or because you had to move out of your apartment, or because the court wasn’t fair when it ordered child support or alimony payments. You just couldn’t afford what the court ordered, no matter how hard you tried. Plus, when your court date came, you went to work and missed it because you couldn’t get time off. Now 25% to 60% of your money is being taken out of your paycheck! It is not acceptable to you. You need to fight it or you won’t be able to put gas in your car to get to work in the first place. It is a terrible Catch-22.
Fight Garnishment at Work Get help from your employer. Go see the Payroll or Human Resources Department. They may be able to help. If you work for a good company, they want to help you and know that keeping you happy keeps productivity up. If this is yo…