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Why are my wages being garnished?

If you have fallen behind on your debts, you could wind up having your wages garnished by the court. But that is not a process that occurs overnight. Debtors typically have ample warning to avoid garnishment.

Below are some arrearages that could cause you to be subject to wage garnishment.

-- Unpaid child support

-- Unpaid taxes

-- Judgments resulting from court proceedings

-- Student loans

-- Personal loans

In order for the court to grant a garnishment, the creditor must appear at a court hearing. Debtors are served notice of same (if they can be located). At the hearing, the creditor presents the case against the debtor, who may also present any defense to the debt allegations.

The burden of proof falls on the creditor to prove that the debt is indeed legally owed and there has been a lack of attempt to rectify the debt.

If the judge rules in the creditor's favor, an order is issued to the debtor's employer that requires them to withhold a set amount each pay period that will be paid directly to the creditor.

Employers then issue letters detailing these arrangements to the debtors prior to initiating the wage garnishments. Garnishments remain in force until the debt has been repaid.

If this sounds unfair, be assured that there are policies that keep debtors from going broke while debts are settled. For instance, the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) prohibits more than 25 percent of the disposable wages being garnished from a debtor's paycheck. This holds true unless the debt is related to unpaid child support. In those cases, a garnishment may be as high as 60 percent of the disposable earnings of the debtor.

Because garnishments can be quite technical and often hinge on tenuous evidence, it is usually worth the investment to retain an attorney to represent your interests as a debtor.

Source: Findlaw, "Wage Garnishment," accessed June 16, 2017

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