If you fall behind on your bills, creditors have the right to seek payment via wage garnishment. Garnishment means that your employer is required to withhold some of your earnings to repay the debt. The most common reasons for garnishment include child support, unpaid taxes, and defaulted student loans, but other creditors can get a court order to collect payment this way. If you are facing wage garnishment, get help from an attorney to explore your options for stopping the action—including filing bankruptcy—and check out the following guide to better understand your rights.
What to Know About Wage Garnishments
How much of my paycheck can a creditor take?
Depending on the type of debt, the effect on your paycheck will vary. Wage garnishments are calculated based on your gross income after legally required deductions, which include federal, state, and local taxes and Social Security. The remaining pay is called the disposable balance, and creditors can take the lesser of 25% of that amount, or an amount equal to the federal minimum wage multiplied by 30. Exceptions are child support garnishments, which can be up to 65% of disposable pay, student loans, which cap garnishments at 10%, and the IRS, which can take your entire paycheck in certain circumstances.
Can I stop wage garnishment?
Filing for bankruptcy can stop some wage garnishments. Typically, when you file for bankruptcy, it stops all collection activities on your outstanding accounts. However, if you owe child support, back taxes, or non-dischargeable debts (like student loans), the stay isn't automatic.
If bankruptcy isn't an option, your attorney may be able to request a hearing to have a wage garnishment modified or lifted. You will need to prove that you need more of your income, or that you qualify for an exemption.
Can I be fired for a wage garnishment?
Your employer is required by law to comply with wage garnishment orders, and you cannot be fired for a single garnishment. However, you are not protected from termination if you have multiple garnishments or a single creditor is garnishing wages for two or more debts.
Can I pay a debt some other way?
You can avoid wage garnishment by working with a creditor to settle the debt another way. This usually needs to happen when the creditor first takes you to court for the debt. If a creditor gets a judgment against you, they and the court are unlikely to agree to alternative arrangements.
It's almost always better to settle the debt with a lump sum payment or payment plan. Bankruptcy can also help eliminate debts, but if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and don't make payments as agreed, the garnishment will be reinstated.
Get help dealing with wage garnishment from the Bueker Law Firm. For over 20 years, this experienced bankruptcy attorney has helped people throughout central and southeast Arkansas manage debt with personalized, one-on-one assistance. Learn more about the practice on the website or call (870) 673-1313 to schedule a consultation in the Stuttgart office.