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When Can a Debt Collector Garnish Your Wages?

If you owe money on a debt, the debt’s owner has several options to try to collect. One of the most effect methods for debt collection is wage garnishment. A wage garnishment allows a debt collector to take money directly out of your paycheck until the debt has been satisfied. Because wage garnishment significantly affects your ability to provide for yourself and your family, it is only allowed in specific circumstances.

First, a debt collector must receive an order from a court or a government agency allowing that creditor to garnish your wages. A court order requires a judgment; after a creditor has filed and won a lawsuit against you, the creditor can request a writ of wage garnishment on your income. Government agencies, like the Florida Department of Children and Families, can also issue such an order to collect debts like back child support payments.

Once a creditor receives a writ of garnishment, the writ will be sent to your employer. Your employer must either comply with the writ or face legal sanctions. The money for the debt will then come directly out of your paycheck until the debt is satisfied.

Creditors cannot garnish the wages of all Floridians, and they cannot take all of your paycheck. There are certain exemptions which may protect your income even with a valid wage garnishment order.

The most significant exemption is the “head of family” exemption. If you provide at least half of the support for a child or other qualifying dependent, then up to $750 of your weekly net wages are protected from garnishment. If you make less than $750 per week, then a creditor may not be able to garnish your wages at all. Additionally, wages held in a bank account that belong to a head of family are exempt from being seized by a creditor for up to six months after the wage garnishment begins.

In addition to the head of family exemption, federal law limits the amount of money that creditors may garnish. Under 15 U.S.C 1673, creditors cannot garnish more than 25% of a person’s disposable income. This rule applies to everyone, not just heads of family. However, in some circumstances a garnishment may exceed 25% if your weekly disposable income is greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage.

Finally, creditors are also not allowed to garnish certain types of income. If you receive money from Social Security, workers’ compensation, veteran’s benefits, or unemployment benefits, your creditors will not be able to garnish this money. Pensions, 401(k) plans, life insurance proceeds, medical savings accounts, and college savings funds are also exempt from garnishment.

If you are facing a wage garnishment order, you still have options. At Loan Lawyers, our attorneys can review your case and determine if we can remove your wage garnishment or if you are eligible for exemptions from either the state or federal governments. If you are currently being sued by a creditor, we can attempt to resolve your debt issues before it reaches the garnishment stage.

To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact Loan Lawyers today by calling (888) FIGHT-13 (344-4813).

  • ABC News
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • CBS 4
  • CNN
  • Daily Business Review
  • Florida Trend's - Florida Legal Elite 2014
  • Florida Trend's - Florida Legal Elite 2014
  • National Association of Consumer Advocates
  • National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
  • NBC News
  • National Consumer Law Center
  • The New York Times
  • Avvo
  • Avvo
  • Avvo
  • Avvo
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