Having your wages garnished is never a pleasant experience. You work hard for your money, and having a portion of it automatically withheld every pay period can be frustrating and discouraging. However, garnishment is very common for those dealing with unpaid debt, which is in turn common for many American adults.
You may be worried about what your employer will think if they find out about your wage garnishment. Will it impact their opinion of you as an employee or a person? Will it keep you from receiving raises, promotions, or other opportunities? Will it cause them to terminate your employment? These questions can lead many to fear their boss finding out about their garnishment – and rightly so.
Before we address the question of your employer’s awareness of your wage garnishment, it might be a good idea to understand what is happening during this process. In general, wages being garnished is a court-ordered or legally mandated process that allows creditors or other entities that you owe monetarily to recover that money. To repay your debts, a portion of your wages will be withheld every period and transferred to that person or company. While the amount will vary depending on the type of garnishment, it will typically be no more than 25%, and usually far less.
Yes. While different types of garnishments have different procedures and different rules, typically, your employer will be notified directly of your wage garnishment. This is because they have to comply with the process, allowing that portion of your wages to be deducted. If they fail to do so, they will be in defiance of the law. As such, the employer will typically be directly notified, either by a local sheriff, or through a letter, email, or other format. Regardless, they will be notified, as will you.
Legally, you are protected from retaliation by your employer if you have only one garnishment. They cannot fire you or otherwise punish you because of one debt. However, if you have several garnishments, you have less protection under the law, especially in certain states. Be sure to speak to an attorney if you have questions regarding this topic.
There are various reasons why a person may have their wages garnished. These include:
Let’s look at each of these in more detail, as well as some of the specific rules regarding these types of garnishments.
Whether you’ve run up a credit card bill or defaulted on a personal loan, a creditor may be able to pursue repayment through a court order. If this happens, that court order may involve wage garnishment. In these cases, your garnishment will generally be a maximum of 25% of your total income after standard deductions, or an amount leaving you with 30 times the federal minimum wage – whichever is less. The idea is to allow you to pay down debt while maintaining support for yourself and your household.
Since 1988, child support and alimony payments owed have been automatically deducted from the responsible party’s paychecks. In some cases, this will come out as a single payment. However, if your alimony and child support are not combined, you will owe two garnishment amounts each pay period.
The maximum amount allowable for garnishment during each pay period is 50% for those currently supporting a spouse or other child. For those without a family to support, up to 60% total is allowable. Additionally, another 5% can be garnished if you are 12 weeks late or later on payments.
Unlike other types of garnishment, there is no lawsuit required to obtain a portion of your income to repay outstanding student loan debt. If you are in default on your federal student loans, your wages can be garnished. The maximum allowable garnishment per pay period is 15%, or an amount leaving you with 30 times the federal minimum wage – whichever is less. Again, the idea of this type of garnishment is to recoup unpaid debt while still allowing the person responsible for repaying that debt to support themselves and their household.
This is perhaps the most frightening type of wage garnishment to face, because the IRS can take a pretty hefty chunk of your wages – and they don’t need a court order to do so. The exact amount will depend on the information with which you filed taxes, including deductions like dependents. Generally, though, this type of garnishment doesn’t have to leave you with much to live on – and can result in the necessity to consider alternatives like bankruptcy or secondary streams of income.
If you feel that you are having your wages garnished in error – or if too much is being garnished for you to be able to support yourself or your family – you may be able to file an objection. This objection will vary depending on the type of garnishment you are dealing with, but in general, you can begin the process by filling out paperwork documenting why you believe the garnishment against you is erroneous and how you think it should be addressed. This might be because your income is exempt from garnishment or because you have already repaid or discharged the debt. Regardless of why, you are legally entitled to object – but your objection will only be heard if you truly have legal grounds for it.
If you still have questions about your rights regarding wage garnishment, contact the knowledgeable staff at the Van Horn Law Group. We can help you understand your rights and responsibilities, answer your questions, and equip you to object to unfair treatment you might be receiving as a result of your garnishment. Whatever your concerns may be, give us a call to address them today.
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