Money and Debt

Wage withholding or garnishment

A creditor can get a court order to take money from your paycheck to pay back a debt. But you still have some options.

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Understanding the Basics

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You may have a creditor who has tried to collect a debt. In order to collect the money, they can sue you in court.

If the creditor wins, the court gives them the right to collect payment from you. You will know this happened because you will receive a letter titled “Notice of Court Proceeding to Collect Debt.”

One of the most common ways to collect payment is called a “garnishment of personal earnings.” You have rights when your wages are being garnished. For example, they cannot leave you with less than $217.50 in wages every week.

A garnishment is when the court orders your employer to hold on to part of your paycheck. That money is used to pay off your debt.

Avoiding garnishment

There may be some things you can do. The “Notice of Court Proceeding to Collect Debt” is sometimes called a “15-day letter” because you have 15 days to find a solution after it is sent.

After the creditor sues and wins, you can’t challenge the creditor’s right to collect the money. However, you may be able to avoid the garnishment.

Here are some options:

Your rights

All of this may sound upsetting, but there are rules about what creditors can and cannot do. They cannot:

  • Take more than 25% of your wages, with a few exceptions like child support
  • Reduce your wages below $217.50 per week
  • Place you on a public list to embarrass you

You also cannot be fired from your job because your wages are being taken to pay a debt, so long as this only happens once in a 12-month period. And if a second garnishment is for child support, you can’t be fired for that, either.

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