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Wage Garnishment & Your Rights

Dec. 17, 2021

Gavel and money in wallet on wooden backgroundWhen a debtor fails to make payments or defaults on their debt, their earnings can be withheld to pay outstanding debt. This practice is known as “wage garnishment.” However, debt collectors can only garnish your wages if they sue you for the debt and win.

Wage garnishment can be overwhelming, scary, and stressful. Fortunately, there may be legal options to reduce or stop wage garnishment. Discuss your unique situation with an attorney to explore your options. As an experienced wage garnishment attorney at Zuckerman Law, LLC, I help people file for bankruptcy relief and take other steps to fight the garnishment. I provide advice and solutions to clients facing wage garnishment in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as well as throughout South Florida. I have successfully represented clients in North Miami Beach, Hollywood, Boca Raton, Aventura, Miami, and Sunny Isles.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment is the process of deducting money from a debtor’s paycheck. It occurs when a creditor or debt collector takes legal action against a debtor to seize a portion of the debtor’s earnings. Garnishment may also be used to deduct a portion of the debtor’s bank account or other assets to pay outstanding debt. When a creditor wins a judgment against the debtor, the creditor will send a notice to the debtor’s employer requiring them to withhold a portion of the debtor’s earnings for the payment of their debt.

Debts eligible for garnishments include child support payments, unpaid taxes, credit card debt, monetary fines, and student loans. Federal law limits the amount that can be deducted from a debtor’s paycheck to ensure that debtors facing wage garnishment have enough money to pay for their living expenses.

Laws Addressing Wage Garnishment

When it comes to garnishing wages, Florida follows federal law in most circumstances. However, Florida law provides the “head of household” exemption to shield all or most of a debtor’s wages from wage garnishment. In order to qualify for the head of household exemption, the debtor must meet the two following requirements:

  • The debtor is the head of the household

  • The debtor’s wages are $750 per week or less

Debtors who do not qualify for the head of household exemption will have their earnings garnished up to the limits imposed by federal law. The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) allows creditors to garnish the lesser of 25% of the debtor’s disposable income or the amount of the disposable earnings that exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage.

If a debtor’s disposable income is less than 30 times the federal minimum wage, their wages cannot be garnished.

Stopping Wage Garnishment

When a creditor seeks wage garnishment, you will receive a notice from the court. The notice comes along with instructions on how you can challenge the garnishment order in court. Under Florida law, debtors facing a garnishment have 20 days to file an exemption to the garnishment. There are several ways to stop wage garnishment:

  1. Fight the garnishment. You can challenge the garnishment judgment if you can prove that it was issued in error. Valid reasons for challenging the garnishment order include: the debt was already paid, the individual is not responsible for the debt, or there is a pending or finalized bankruptcy filing seeking to discharge the debt.

  2. Negotiate a payment plan. Your wage garnishment attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, may be able to negotiate a payment plan or a lesser amount to be withheld from your paychecks.

  3. File for bankruptcy. Another way to stop wage garnishment could be filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy protects debtors from debt collection activities, including garnishments, through an automatic stay. Filing for bankruptcy could also help discharge some of the debts. However, do not expect a bankruptcy filing to eliminate your domestic support obligations, including child support and alimony.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

If a creditor wants to go after your earnings in order to satisfy your debts, it is important to protect your rights and understand your options for reducing or eliminating wage garnishment. As an experienced wage garnishment attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I am prepared to review your specific situation and help you ease your concerns. Contact me at Zuckerman Law, LLC, to get a free case evaluation and discuss your options to protect your paychecks from creditors.