Radcliff Wage Garnishment Defense Attorneys
Fighting to Prevent Wage Garnishment of Our Hardin County Clients
Wage garnishment is a particularly scary consequence of debt. In some situations, a lender or collections agent might be able to secure a court order requiring your employer to remove – or “garnish” – a percentage of your pay in order to help settle an outstanding debt. Not only is this embarrassing, it also has the effect of making a bad situation worse. If you were already struggling to pay your obligations, getting less money in your paycheck will leave you with even fewer options for staying on top of your expenses and other debts.
You will generally have a great deal of warning before any wage garnishment takes effect. This gives you time to consider your options and pursue means of relief. Our Radcliff wage garnishment defense lawyers at Musselwhite Meinhart & Staples can work with you to manage your debt and limit the consequences of the practice. Our team has over 100 years of legal experience and a full knowledge on how to fight wage garnishment.
Understanding How Wage Garnishment Works in Kentucky
The good news is a debt collector cannot simply decide to garnish your wage whenever they feel like it, even if you are late on one or more payments. The specifics of how wage garnishment can be authorized – and how much can be taken per week – depends on the type of debt.
In the state of Kentucky, most types of creditors must obtain a court order in order to garnish your wages. A common form of creditor harassment used by some debt collectors is to claim they will immediately garnish your wages if you do not pay up. Unless the underlying debt is one of several specific exceptions, they will be unable to garnish your wages without a court order authorizing them to do so, which requires giving you formal, proper notice and a chance to object.
Debt involving unpaid credit cards, medical bills, or personal loans will require a court order to trigger wage garnishment, for example. Because pursuing such an order can be costly and consuming, creditors often wait until a loan is seriously delinquent before taking this option. They will need to file a lawsuit against you in court and obtain a judgment permitting the judgment.
Should a lawsuit be filed, you will receive written notice with instructions on how to object and legally defend yourself. Take such a notice seriously and immediately get in touch with our Radcliff wage garnishment defense attorneys. We can evaluate the specifics of your situation and determine if there are grounds to object to the garnishment as well as explore other relief options.
There are certain types of debt in which creditors do not need a court order to leverage wage garnishment. Creditors who fall into this category will still typically warn you if they plan to garnish your wages, so take any such communication seriously.
Types of debt that can lead to wage garnishment without a court order include:
- Student loan debt. If you have defaulted on your student loans, the U.S. Department of Education or its representatives can deploy an administrative garnishment of up to 15% of your disposable income (take-home pay minus qualifying expenses) but not more than 30 times the minimum wage.
- Tax debt. If you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the federal agency that handles tax collection, you may be subject to garnishment. The scope of the garnishment will depend on your deduction rate and household size.
- Missed child support payments. Garnishments for falling behind on child or spousal support can be extremely severe. If you are supporting another spouse or child, you can still have 50% of your disposable income garnished without a court order. If you are not currently supporting anyone else, up to 60% of your disposable income could be garnished. Any missed payments that have been delinquent for more than 1 year could add an additional 5%.
How Much Can Creditors Take from My Paycheck in Kentucky?
If a creditor not mentioned as one of the exclusions obtains a money judgment from a lawsuit filed against you, they will have the right to garnish a portion of your wages. There are still limits on how much of your paycheck they can actually take to repay debts.
Excluding situations involving missed child support payments, only 25% of your wages can generally be discharged at any one time. The portion garnished comes from your take-home pay, after involuntary deductions like payroll and Social Security taxes are removed from your paycheck.
If you only have one garnishment in effect, a creditor with a money judgment may request the full “available” 25% be garnished. If there are multiple garnishments in play, the percentages will be divided amongst the creditors with judgments but will not exceed 25%.
Can I Be Fired for Wage Garnishment?
Your employer is ultimately the party that must facilitate the wage garnishment. After receiving the court order (or an administrative garnishment for one of the excepted types of debt) to initiate garnishment, they must take the steps necessary to deducting the proper amount and redirecting it to the creditor.
This process can be uncomfortable for you and represent an annoyance to your employer. You might be understandably concerned that you could be fired as a result of one or more wage garnishments.
Federal law protects employees from termination as a result of one wage garnishment. Your boss cannot fire, discipline, demote, or retaliate against you, even though they have the added bit of work of adjusting your paycheck. However, you lose federal protections in situations where you have more than one wage garnishment at any one time. To avoid exposing yourself to a potential job loss, do everything possible to avoid having multiple garnishments in play.
How Bankruptcy Can Stop Wage Garnishment
When wage garnishment can cause this much damage, you might be wondering how you can prevent it if you do not have the grounds to object in court. Wage garnishment is the result of accumulating debt, so the one way to eliminate the threat of garnishment long-term is to address the debt itself.
The institution of bankruptcy can help you manage your finances, give you time to catch up on delinquent payments, and even discharge unsecured debts. The type of consumer bankruptcy you file for will depend on your current income and ability to repay a portion of outstanding debts. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your nonexempt assets will be liquidated to pay creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy combines your debts into a single monthly payment determined by your disposable income; you will be expected to pay this amount over a term of 3 to 5 years.
Filing for either type of consumer bankruptcy entitles you to the automatic stay, which is a crucial tool in stopping the immediate impact of wage garnishment. The automatic stay halts any collection actions from being taken against you, including wage garnishment. Any ongoing garnishments will be frozen and cannot continue for the duration of your bankruptcy filing. Creditors will also not be able to pursue new garnishments against you.
Keep in mind that you are typically able to discharge unsecured debts at the conclusion of your bankruptcy, including credit card debt, medical debt, and personal loans. The automatic stay gives you an opportunity to reorganize your finances and catch up on non-dischargeable debts that are vulnerable to wage garnishment, especially debts exempted from court orders like missed child support payments.
We Can Help You Combat Wage Garnishment
If you have multiple forms of debt, it can be overwhelming to decipher the best strategy on how to protect yourself from wage garnishment. Our Radcliff wage garnishment defense lawyers at Musselwhite Meinheart & Staples have substantial experience helping our Kentucky clients avoid the worst impacts of exorbitant debt. After thoroughly evaluating the facts of your case, we can advise on legal solutions that can help you stop wage garnishment and build a better financial future free of debt. We can walk you through how bankruptcy may be able to help you and represent you in each step of the process. Our team understands the gravity of your situation and strives to give each of our clients the compassionate, individualized attention they deserve.
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