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Wage Garnishment

Wage Garnishment

Your wages may be garnished if you owe child support, student loans, or back taxes, or a court judgment has been entered against you. A creditor is permitted to file a civil lawsuit against you when you default on your payments. If the creditor is successful in the lawsuit, or if you fail to show up for court and they are given a default judgement, they may file additional paperwork ordering your employer to withhold a certain percentage of your paycheck to apply toward your past due balance.

In the case of child support, student loans or taxes, the creditor may file a wage garnishment without filing a civil suit. If you have received such a notice and are wondering how to stop wage garnishment, you must first understand how the process works.

What is Wage Garnishment?

In many states, a creditor who has received a judgement against you can garnish your wages. The laws regarding wage garnishment are different in each state.

In New Jersey, the court can order your employer to withhold the lesser of ten percent of your gross pay or 25 percent of your disposal earnings each week. If you earn less than $154.50 per week, your wages cannot be garnished.

In New York, the court may order either ten percent of your gross income or the federal maximum, whichever is lower, to be sent to your creditor. If you already have a garnishment for alimony, support or maintenance, the combined garnishments cannot exceed 25 percent of your disposable earnings. Garnishments for alimony, support and maintenance take priority. In New York, the creditor serves you at your residence and you are provided 20 days to begin making payments. If you do not, your wages can be garnished.

Illegal Wage Garnishment

In some states, including Pennsylvania, wage garnishment is illegal except for taxes and child support.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Revenue can garnish wages without a court order for unpaid state taxes, but must first notify the debtor of their intent to seek a wage garnishment. If the taxpayer fails to resolve the liability, a wage garnishment can be issued. In addition, the employer is permitted to retain up to two percent of the amount collected to compensate for their own additional costs and paperwork.

How to Stop a Wage Garnishment

One way to stop a wage garnishment is to file a claim for exemption. In some states, you may claim exemptions if you provide support to a dependent, you are the head of household providing more than 50 percent of support for a child or other dependent or if your income falls into a special category.

Special category incomes include public assistance, social security or retirement benefits. Social security and disability cannot be garnished, but some creditors will attempt to seize them after they are deposited into your bank account. The law protects social security income for six months even after it has been deposited in your account.

Another option to stop a wage garnishment is to file for bankruptcy. This creates an automatic stay that terminates most wage garnishments. You may also be able to vacate the judgement if you believe it was obtained improperly.

If you have received notice that your wages will be garnished, contact Georgette Miller and Dilworth Paxson to learn more about what is wage garnishment and what rights you have. You can arrange for your initial consultation by visiting our website or giving us a call today.

Bankruptcy creates an automatic stay that terminates most wage garnishments.