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Can I Stop a Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment is a way that creditors try to collect their debts. Garnishment is also known as “wage attachment” or “wage withholding.” In a garnishment proceeding, a creditor sends an order to the employer to withhold a portion of your wages each pay period. The employer must send that part of your paycheck directly to the creditor. However, not every creditor is entitled to garnish wages, and there are limits to how much of your paycheck any one creditor can take. It is important to understand the limitations of garnishments so that you can successfully fight against them.

Obtaining a Judgment

First of all, creditors cannot simply order your employer to withhold money from your paycheck. They must first go through a lawsuit process and obtain a judgment. If you owe money to a credit card company, a service provider or others, you will be notified if they sue you and have a chance to address the debt before a judgment is issued and a garnishment put in place. However, there are a few creditors to whom this rule does not apply. These creditors can garnish your wages without a judgment against you. These include:

  • Student loan collectors. When you take out a federally-guaranteed student loan, you waive the right to demand a judgment be issued before you are garnished. Authorized collectors of student loans can garnish your wages at will if you are in default.
  • Child support and alimony collectors. Courts and agencies can garnish your wages to recover unpaid child support and alimony, since they already have a court order in the form of your divorce decree or child support order.
  • Tax collections. Agencies that collect back taxes, like the IRS or state authorities, can garnish you for unpaid sums.

While these collectors do not have to have a judgment in order to garnish your wages, they must still provide some type of notice to your employer. Therefore, it is unlikely that you would be unaware of the garnishment before it occurred.

How Much Can They Take From My Paycheck?

Federal law applies limits to the amount that can be garnished by a judgment creditor or those collecting for student loan debt, alimony and child support or state and federal taxes. State laws may also limit the amount that can be taken from individuals. The garnishment will last until the debt is paid in full, including expenses. In addition, employers may not fire you because you have a wage garnishment in place. If you are facing a wage garnishment, talk to the bankruptcy attorneys at Oswalt Law Group in Phoenix about your options.

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