Wage garnishment is something you may face if you have debts. Our attorney at Groce & DeArmon, P.C., can help you navigate any issues if you encounter this type of debt collection.
We answer frequently asked questions about wage garnishment.
What is wage garnishment?
Wage garnishment offers a legal way for lenders to pay your debts via a court order.
How does a wage garnishment happen?
A lender goes to court, usually a state court, and files papers showing that a debtor owes a debt and that the debt remains unpaid, either in part or in full. The court sets a date for you to appear in front of a judge.
After a court date or two, the judge will decide whether a wage garnishment is legal in the case. If the judge determines the lender has a right to garnish wages, the garnishment becomes legal for a company to collect the debt.
Do I have the right to hire a lawyer in a wage garnishment case?
Yes, you have the right to legal representation during any court proceedings. Because it is a civil lawsuit and not a criminal case, you will be responsible for paying the attorney’s fees because a public defender cannot be appointed for you.
Why would you want an attorney during a wage garnishment case?
Depending on your financial situation or circumstances, a qualified attorney offers a way to negotiate with the lender during court proceedings. Every person’s situation is unique, which is why an attorney like ours at Groce & DeArmon, P.C., may offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your case.
How do wage garnishments work?
Following a court order, the court and the lender can direct an employer to withhold a specified amount of your paycheck to send it directly to the lender. The court sends the correct paperwork to your employer, including how much to garnish, when to garnish them, and where to send the money.
How much money can a wage garnishment withhold?
Up to 25 percent of your disposable income or the amount by which an employee’s weekly wages exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less, no matter how many garnishments are on your record. If you are the head of household, lenders can only garnish 10 percent of your disposable income.
For example, 30 times the current federal minimum wage is $217.50 at $7.25 an hour. Your disposable income is $750 per week after taking out deductions. 25 percent of $750 is $187.50. Your maximum amount to be garnished cannot exceed $187.50 per week.
As another example, your weekly disposable income is $1,500. 25 percent of that is $375. In this case, you would owe $217.50 total per week.
Using 10 percent if you are the head of household, you would owe $120 or $150 per week based on those income levels because both of those are less than $217.50.
How do I let the court know I am the head of household for wage garnishment?
There are two ways to do this.
- Prove the court at a hearing that you are a head of household. The usual way to do this is to fill out a form for the court, and a judge certifies it. A qualified attorney can help you prepare for this hearing.
- Fill out an affidavit (a special form) with your employer after a judge rules in your wage garnishment case. This usually happens a week or two after the judge finalizes the case.
When can a lender or creditor garnish your wages in Missouri?
Most creditors need a court order for a wage garnishment. They need to prove to the court that you owe a debt and it’s unpaid. To do this, creditors file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against someone who owes the debt.
Examples of unsecured debts that might be subjected to a court-ordered wage garnishment include debts from:
- Credit cards
- Installment loans
- Medical bills
- Payday loans
- Utility bills
- Phone bills
- Cable bills.
How long before a creditor or lender can garnish wages?
Typically, someone might have wages withheld anywhere from 5 to 30 days after a judgment against them.
When can a creditor garnish wages without a court order?
This is called administrative wage garnishment, and it could happen for:
- Unpaid income taxes
- Court-ordered child support or back child support
- Defaulted student loans.
What percentage of wages can an agency take for an administrative wage garnishment without a court order?
Federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service are not limited to court orders for 25 percent or 10 percent of your wages. How much the agency garnishes depends on several factors. An attorney can guide you.
For federal student aid, a lender can withhold up to 15 percent of your disposable wages.
In Missouri, child support enforcement can garnish up to 50 percent of your wages to pay child support if you are currently supporting a spouse or child who isn’t the subject of the child support order. If you aren’t supporting a spouse or child, Missouri can take up to 60 percent of your disposable income.
How long do wage garnishments last?
For unsecured debts in Missouri, these may last until the lender submits documentation to the court that the debt is paid in full. This is called continuous wage garnishment.
What happens to wage garnishment if you quit your job?
If you quit your job, the garnishment stops temporarily. A lender must go back to court to get another order from a judge for your new employer. A lender can go back and do this as many times as needed until the debt is paid because a judge has already determined and ruled that someone legally owes the debt.
Can a wage garnishment hurt my credit?
Yes, because it is a matter of public record. Possible lenders can see your wage garnishment when searching court records on the state or local level.
Does wage garnishment affect my employment?
An employer cannot refuse to hire, discipline someone, or terminate someone for a child support withholding notice for wage garnishment. Federal law prohibits an employer from firing someone for one garnishment. However, employees are no longer protected if they have more than one for multiple debts.
Can an attorney help me with wage garnishment?
Yes, an attorney can help you with this type of debt collection issue. Contact the dedicated bankruptcy attorney at Groce & DeArmon, P.C., or call us at 1-800-640-3706 in Missouri or (417) 862-3706 for a free initial consultation.