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Wage Garnishment Rights

Arjun Kulkarni Sep 29, 2018
Wage garnishment is the process by which a creditor collects the debts you may have defaulted on in the past, by deducting a part of your disposable income. Here's more...
Talk about old ghosts coming back to haunt you. If you had defaulted on some debt in the past, wage garnishment is the machinery installed by the government to collect your old outstanding and long-forgotten debts.
It works in the most punishing way. Just when you thought that you are doing well with your new job and salary, the government comes back to settle old scores, brandishing your unpaid bills.
How does this happen? By deducting parts of your hard-earned salary. And it goes straight for your boss, so that there will be no chance of another default. When you get your salary, a percentage of your salary is deducted as payments towards old bills.
One can't help but observe the irony of the word 'garnishing', when in fact, the wages are actually being reduced. The 'slightly' good part is that, even in the midst of this hideous reality, the government will grant you some rights.

Legal Rights Regarding Wage Garnishment

Governing the wage garnishment too is very important, and the government makes its efforts in trying to protect the individual whose wages are being garnished from outright exploitation by debt collection agencies, or for that matter, even his employers.
The first (and most necessary) piece of knowledge that you need is the percentage of disposable income that may be garnished. An upper limit of 25% of disposable income is set for wage garnishment.
►The first thing that you need to remember is that, at least in the United States, the government is not an evil, cash-depriving mechanism. When your creditor goes to court to claim old bad debts, the government will make sure that there will be an amicable settlement between the two parties.
It will make sure that no 'undue hardship' is caused to either the debtor or the creditor. Hence, your first right is that, in case you feel that you are left with a pitiable disposable income, you can appeal to the court to reduce the percentage of garnishment.
►You also have a right to receive a notification of the intention of the debt collection agency to garnish your wages, 30 days prior to the garnishment. You have the right to inspect the details regarding your debts and the amount that the debt collection agency intends to garnish.
►Next, you also have the right to avoid garnishment by volunteering to repay the old debts along with the interest factor (that may not be allowed to exceed 6%). You are given the opportunity to come to a mutual agreement with the agency regarding debt repayment, without having to undergo the rigors of a court procedure.
►In case an agreeable settlement could not be arrived at, you have the right to go to the court and plead your case. You also have the right to object to any of the provisions regarding the amount, enforceability, or outright existence of the debt as given by the debt collection agency, and obtain a ruling regarding the same.
►Going back to the part about undue financial hardship; if you feel that the court has given a financially debilitating ruling, and the 25% deduction will cause an undue financial hardship, you have the right to appeal to the court, so that your garnishment may be reduced to 15% or less.
Another right that you have, is that you can appeal against the garnishing if your previous employment had been severed involuntarily, and your new employment has started only within the past 12 months.
►You also have the right of withholding action till the court proceedings are complete, if you have filed a request for a hearing in time.
►One of the most important rights include that, during the period of such garnishment, you may be loosely exempted from being voluntarily or involuntarily discharged from employment. Further, you can also not be refused employment. In case any of these scenarios occur, you have the right to seek redress in either a federal or a state court.
►The employer will not have any more information that is required for him to comply with the withholding order.
Wage garnishment not only creates a financial crunch, but also is an embarrassing experience. Hence, if your wages are about to get garnished, you should be aware of your rights, so that no one takes undue advantage of you.