Can Wages be Wrongfully Garnished?

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You just found out that your wages are being garnished and you think, “There must be some mistake!”  The fact is that wages can, on occasion, be wrongfully garnished, but often not for what you might think.  You may actually owe the debt, and it may be a warranted garnishment, but it still may be “wrongful,” in the sense that it does not follow the rules and regulations of your specific state regarding wage garnishment.

Is your Wage Garnishment Wrongful?

Here are some key considerations when looking into potentially wrongful wage garnishments: 

  • What Does Your State Say?

What are the laws of your specific state regarding wage garnishments?  Some states, for example, do not allow wage garnishments for unsecured debts, like credit card or personal loan debt.  So, if you are having your wages garnished by an unsecured loan lender, you must be aware of your state’s statutes in this regard.   

What’s more, some states do not allow wage garnishments if you are considered the “head” of your household.  In this case, if you are your family’s primary breadwinner, you must sure that your wages are not being wrongfully garnished according to your state’s laws governing wage garnishments. 

  • How Much of Your Wages are Being Garnished?

In most states, no more than 25 percent of your net income can be garnished.  Again, look closely at the amount of your garnishment.  If it is more than 25 percent of your net income, or if more than one creditor is garnishing your wages for an overall total of more than 25 percent, your wage garnishment may be wrongful. 

  • What Comes First?

Certain wage garnishments, like those for child support or back taxes, trump garnishments from other creditors, including credit cards.  If your wages are already being garnished by other lenders, and you also owe money due to one these “higher priority” debts, both lenders cannot simply garnish your wages.  The one with preeminence would simply bump the other garnishment. 

  • I Don’t Owe This Money! 

Obviously, if this garnishment is on your record erroneously, or if it is a debt that has already been paid in full, then you are facing a wrongful wage garnishment. 

Steps to Take

If you are subject to wage garnishments, here are a few steps to take: 

  1. Get educated – learn everything you can about wage garnishments in your state
  2. Work with your creditors – do your best to work directly with your creditors before you are even in this situation, or try to pay off your debts independently of the garnishment
  3. Hire an attorney – if you think you are subject to a wrongful garnishment, get help to make your case!

Getting Help

Working with an experienced attorney can also be a great way to help you determine if your wages were wrongfully garnished. If you and your attorney decide there was a legal or procedural error with the wage garnishment, your lawyer can help you go to the courts to quickly correct the problem.

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