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What Rights Do You Have If Your Wages Are Being Garnished?

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/29/2012

Contrary to what most people think, there are wage garnishment rights that you may be entitled to. Just because your wages have been garnished does not mean you have no recourse. Certain debts are not eligible for the minimum disposable income rules but others are.

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    Wage Garnishment Rights Exceptions

    Wages cannot be garnished by a creditor without first obtaining a court order. In order for a creditor to successfully garnish wages, they would have to file a suit in court and have the garnishment approved by the court. However, there are exceptions to these rules which may impact wage garnishment rights. Here are some instances where a creditor does not have to go to court first:

    A) Child support payments - In many cases, when a court orders child support payments, they will automatically contact an employer to place a wage garnishment. There is no requirement that a separate request for garnishment be filed;pay stub 

    B) Federal or state tax payments - The Department of Labor states that if you fail to pay taxes that your wages can be garnished. The rules for these types of garnishing are extremely flexible. State or federal taxing authorities are not required to request a court ruling to garnish wages. In fact, notification processes are flexible as well - the requirement is that the person who is facing garnished wages be notified at their last address by certified or registered mail. The mail does not have to be accepted in order for the debtor to be considered notified;

    C) Court judgments - Judgments that are placed against a debtor can only garnish a certain percentage of wages. In most cases, this limit is 25% of disposable income. This does not apply to child support nor does it apply to any judgment that is placed as a result of a fraudulent transaction or action.

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    Understanding Wage Garnishment Laws

    questions and answers Under federal and state wage garnishment laws, your rights are protected as follows

    • Wages can be garnished in line with the federal (or state) regulations that are most beneficial to you;
    • An employer cannot fire you due to a first wage garnishment (but may for subsequent garnishments);
    • You may file a request in court to have the wage garnishment order reviewed;
    • Garnishment orders cannot eliminate your total income;
    • Generally garnishment may impact no more than 25 percent of your wages.

    There are some amounts that are excluded under wage garnishment rules including income that is deducted from your paycheck by your employer that is mandatory (for example, taxes and mandatory insurance, etc.). If your income is not fixed (that is your paycheck fluctuates from week to week) the amount held for any given week cannot exceed the allowable amounts. This is important especially for people who work based on piece work or commissions.

    Some debts that result in wage garnishments are not required to follow the preliminary laws meaning the creditor does not have to obtain court approval to secure a wage garnishment order. Some of these debts include:

    There are labor laws in place that help protect wage garnishment rights for both employees and those who are self employed. It is critical that if you are notified of a wage garnishment that you seek competent assistance. There may be valid reasons for having a wage garnishment reduced or removed, but you can only take advantage of this if you knw your wage garnishment rights.