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What Is Wage Garnishment?

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In certain instances, a court can order that a person’s wages be garnished in order to pay off a creditor, to cover mandatory child support payments, or to take care of other legal obligations. When you are hit with a wage garnishment, this means that your employer will be required to withhold a portion of your paycheck and send that money directly to your creditor. Moreover, this will continue until the debt has been completely paid off or the legal obligation has been entirely met.

If you are facing a judgement that could result in wage garnishment, or if your wages are already being garnished, you need a knowledgeable bankruptcy and debt management attorney on your side to ensure that your legal rights are protected. For instance, a qualified debt management attorney can fight on your behalf and make sure that the court does not garnish too much of your wages. That’s because there are laws that protect a debtor against having more than a certain percentage of their paycheck withheld due to wage garnishment.

When Can Your Wages Be Garnished?

So when can a court order that your wages be garnished? The most common examples of wage garnishment are when a person has failed to pay: child support or alimony to an ex-spouse following a divorce, back taxes to the federal government, or student loans to the US Department of Education. However, a person’s wages can also potentially be garnished when any creditor obtains a court order.

Keep in mind that you always have rights when it comes to wage garnishment. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, and the nature of the debt or legal obligation that gives rise to the wage garnishment in the first place, there are legal limits on the amount of money that can be withheld from your paycheck. These limits vary, depending on the state in which the debtor resides.

Under federal law, creditors are limited to seeking wage garnishment of either (1) 25 percent of a debtor’s disposable earnings or (2) a debtor’s disposable earnings minus 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever figure is lower.

In New Jersey, there are additional limits in place that protect debtors against wage garnishment. For instance, NJ law stipulates that creditors can only seek wage garnishment of up to 10 percent of a debtor’s income when the debtor earns less than 2.5 times the federal poverty level.

In Pennsylvania, debtors are granted even stronger protections because PA law only allows wage garnishment in very specific situations, such as when a debtor has failed to comply with child support orders or has defaulted on student loans. This means that most creditors are unable to obtain an order for wage garnishment in Pennsylvania.

 

If you are struggling with debts and face possible wage garnishment, you really need to talk to a qualified bankruptcy and debt management attorney as soon as possible. Joel R. Spivack, Esq., is an experienced bankruptcy lawyer who can help you explore your best options for getting out of debt. Contact Mr. Spivack today to schedule a free initial consultation.