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Being subjected to wage garnishment — a process that allows a creditor to hold a portion of your wages to settle the debts you owe — can be stressful. You may be wondering if you’re better off challenging the garnishment on your own, hiring an attorney, or simply enduring.
With many states legally allowing up to 65 percent of take-home pay to be withheld in the case of wage garnishment, a lawyer may be the best option. Whether this is the right choice for your needs depends on several factors, however.
Wage garnishment can occur for many reasons, such as to pay debts that are related to a judgment, back taxes, or student loans.
If you’re experiencing wage garnishment, you have a few courses of action to choose from. For many, allowing wage garnishment to continue until the debt is fully paid is the best option. In certain cases, however, it may be better to search for other options, such as:
The circumstances of your garnishment determine the best option for your needs. Consider the answers to these questions before deciding on your best course of action.
If the debt doesn’t belong to you, or if you’ve already satisfied it, you should consult an attorney to address the wage garnishment. At the time a garnishment is filed, a court or administrative agency has decided that you are legally responsible for the debt. Because of this, proving that you’re not responsible for the debt can be a challenge without legal representation.
If you’re considering a lawyer but their legal fees are more than the debt itself, it’s likely better to explore other options. Discuss costs with the attorney and find out if they can offer you greater value than the debt you’re responsible for before deciding to move forward.
When your wages are garnished, you’ll receive information from the court that includes an explanation of the garnishment and how much they’ll take from each paycheck. With a garnishment to pay a judgment, federal law allows the creditor to take up to 25 percent of your wages, or the amount by which your income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage, whichever is lower. Some states allow lower amounts.
The IRS can garnish much more than a private creditor.
In certain situations, a creditor may negotiate payment arrangements, especially if you’re facing bankruptcy or extreme financial hardship. In these cases, you may be able to avoid an administrative wage garnishment or levy by choosing a voluntary payment plan that you can negotiate yourself. You can also hire an attorney to handle this negotiation process.
If your employer is threatening to fire you because of the garnishment, it’s vital to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. It’s illegal to fire an employee for wage garnishment.
A common way for creditors to get around a wage exemption is by garnishing your bank account. However, they are not permitted to take more of those wages than the law allows just because they are deposited into a bank account. The forms you receive from the court allow you to indicate which portion of your bank account is wages, but if you’re having trouble with that, you can contact an attorney for guidance.
If you’re struggling to get out from under your debt, you can consult an attorney to determine whether bankruptcy is appropriate for you. Filing a bankruptcy petition will end wage garnishments immediately, in most cases, but it won’t stop income deduction to pay child or spousal support.
Once you determine the type of garnishment you’re experiencing and decide that a lawyer is the right choice, the next step is to find a lawyer. Many firms can handle wage garnishment, but it’s important to do your research to be sure you have an experienced, reputable lawyer who can give you the best chance for a good outcome.
Here are some questions to ask:
Once you’ve chosen your lawyer and have the necessary information about your wage garnishment, you’ll begin with a legal consultation to discuss the details of your case with a lawyer and review your possible options. These may include debt settlement, bankruptcy, or other debt relief options.
If bankruptcy is the best option, you can go about it in two ways. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a process that lasts up to five or six months, leaving all debts reduced or removed completely. If you still have some income left after all of your other financial responsibilities, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is an option.
If you’re struggling with wage garnishment, Solvable can help. We can get you in contact with experienced wage garnishment lawyers who can review your situation and help you find the solution that will give you the best outcome, possibly even stopping your wage garnishment altogether. Contact us today to see how we can help you!