Understanding Garnishment: What Every Employee Should Know

27 February 2018
 Categories: , Blog

Garnishing wages is a legal avenue that creditors, including some tax authorities, such as the Internal Revenue Service can use to force payment of some types of debt. In most cases, creditors are required to first work through the legal system by filing suit against their debtor and successfully obtaining a legal judgment against them.

Once this judgment has been obtained, the creditor is then allowed to take further collection efforts against the debtor, usually in the form of garnishing their wages. Employees who want to avoid the additional financial stress and embarrassment of having their wages garnished may find the following information useful. 

Pay attention to correspondence from creditors

While the temptation to ignore creditor calls and letters can be strong, doing so often results in being blindsided by a wage garnishment. Instead, employees who are dealing with outstanding debt that is in the collections process must pay attention to all correspondence from their creditor. The majority of states require that creditors issue a last written warning as an attempt to collect the amount owed before starting the garnishment process. Debtors who act proactively upon receipt of this notice, or before, may be able to set up a repayment plan that the creditor will agree to, in lieu of pursuing a garnishment order. 

Attend court proceedings relating to judgments

Many creditors go to court and successfully obtain financial judgments against debtors by default because the debtors choose not to attend. While the end decision will be made by the judge assigned to the case, debtors who attend the court hearing may be able to prevent having their wages garnished by presenting their side of the story.

When attending the court proceedings, take along any documentation you may have that shows why you were unable to meet your financial obligations in the past. In addition, make sure the judge understands that you really do want to pay your debt and are willing to agree to a voluntary repayment plan, instead of being subjected to an involuntary garnishment process. 

Garnishment activities can hinder an employment and advancement potential

Wage garnishments are more than just embarrassing. In fact, having a record of this type of legal collections activity can be a factor in limiting an employee's opportunities to advance upwards in their company or work in jobs that require some types of security clearance or background checks. 

Employees who fear they are facing garnishment may want to consider filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy to protect themselves. However, filing bankruptcy is a serious step and should never be taken without first speaking to a reputable bankruptcy attorney such as Jeffrey S. Arnold, Attorney at Law, P.C. to ensure that it is the right option for your individual situation.