Wage garnishment is a legal procedure by which a creditor (or anyone to whom you owe money) can have the court require your employer to hold onto a portion of your paycheck to pay off your debt. Wage garnishment draws your employer into your personal financial life, and it's both humiliating and financial hardship. If you're facing creditors for multiple debts, you could be facing wage garnishment, which can actually lead to your employer terminating you.
Today, our Fort Worth bankruptcy lawyer answers some common questions about wage garnishment.
When Do Wages Get Garnished?
Wage garnishment can only occur if the court issues a court order. In other words, your creditor can't go directly to your employer and garnish your wages unless and until the court gives them permission. That only happens if you lose a lawsuit regarding the money you owe. Which begs the question: when can you be sued over a debt?
You can be sued over any debt in a collections lawsuit: child support, student loans, taxes, credit card debt, etc.
Can an Employer Fire Me for Wage Garnishment?
Federally, you're protected from retaliation if your wages are garnished for a single debt. However, if you owe money to multiple creditors or multiple debts, the law doesn't grant you protection from retaliation. Your wage garnishment is likely an indicator that you're already in dire financial straits—losing your job would be disastrous.
How to Stop Wage Garnishment
There are three main ways you can stop your wages from being garnished:
- Prove to the court that your entire paycheck is necessary to pay your living expenses.
- Prove to the court that you qualify for an exemption.
- File for bankruptcy.
Filing for bankruptcy creates what's called an "automatic stay," which legally bars creditors and collectors from attempting to extract payment. It essentially makes it impossible for some creditors to file a collections lawsuit against you, which stops wage garnishment from occurring. If your wages are being garnished for unsecured loans (e.g. personal loans, credit card debt), then you'll likely get relief from wage garnishment.
However, it's important to note that automatic stays do not apply to debts for child support, student loans, government fines, alimony, or other non-dischargeable debts. If your ex-spouse is suing for child support, declaring bankruptcy will not prevent wage garnishment.
If you're in a dire financial situation, speak with Attorney William Huebner, a Fort Worth bankruptcy lawyer with more than two decades of experience. He has helped countless individuals, families, and businesses create the financial solutions that allowed them to escape their creditors, discharge debt, and rebuild their future.