Wage Garnishment Laws and Procedures

Wage garnishment can be a valuable resource for creditors. Creditors can attach wage garnishments to a debtor’s paycheck when the debtor is otherwise unable or unwilling to pay his or her bills. However, the process for attaching a wage garnishment is typically used as a last ditch effort to collect money. All other options to attempt to collect the monies owed will be used first because the process for approval to garnish wages is expensive and time-consuming for the creditor.

The Process of Wage Garnishment

Getting a wage garnishment is expensive and sometimes difficult for creditors. It is a legal process, so it can take some time to fully develop. The process for attaching a wage garnishment is as follows:

  1. The person issued credit decides not to pay or is unable to pay the creditor and the credit company makes every attempt to collect the monies owed.
  2. After extensive attempts have been made by the primary issuing company, the debt is often sold off at a discounted amount to a second party who assumes responsibility for collecting the debt. The second party who obtains the discounted debt also makes attempts to collect the monies owed from the individual who was issued the credit line initially.
  3. After exhausting every other attempt to collect the debt, the creditor begins to take legal action. This legal action must be taken in the debtor’s home state, which is why this can be an expensive process for the creditor. The creditor must also operate by the laws of the state where the debtor lives and not the laws of the state where the creditor itself is incorporated or located.
  4. Wage garnishment paperwork is processed through the court according to local law and a hearing is scheduled. The creditor and the debtor are required to show up for the hearing with proof of the debt and any reasons why payment is not possible. If the debtor fails to show up for the hearing, the debt is assumed to be valid and a wage garnishment may be issued based on statistical average income information.
  5. At the hearing, if both parties show up, the judge reviews all information, including why payment was not made in the first place and any income information offered by the debtor. After consideration and analysis of the information, the judge will issue a wage garnishment. The wage garnishment order is typically made as fair as possible, allowing the debtor to keep enough money to continue to make necessary payments for living expenses and all other debt. Generally, a certain percentage will be calculated based on the debtor’s income.
  6. Once a final ruling is made by the judge and the wage garnishment goes into effect, the debtor’s employer is notified of the action and a wage attachment is issued. The predetermined amount is then taken from the debtor’s check on the agreed-upon basis to repay the debt. This money is taken from the debtor’s paycheck before the debtor even receives it.

How a Collection Attorney Can Help You

Keep in mind that every state’s law is different concerning the process for wage garnishments. The wage garnishment process described above is merely the most common way. Thus, your own experiences may be slightly different. If you are facing wage garnishment, it's a good idea to talk to a collection lawyer who has experience with the wage garnishment laws and procedures in your state to help guide you through the process.