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What is wage garnishment, and how does it happen?

Wage garnishment is a process where a person’s income is legally diverted to resolve a debt. In Florida, when a person has their wages garnished, the court mandates that their employer withholds a specific portion of their income and sends it to the creditor or the person owed money until the debt is paid.

Types of wage garnishment

There are different types of wage garnishment, including those resulting from business litigation, student loans, child support or consumer debt. It is more common than people realize and affects hundreds of thousands of individuals. Garnishment falls under wage garnishment, where the employer withholds part of the employee’s earnings, or non-wage garnishment. The latter is where creditors access the person’s bank account.

Why garnishment happens

Garnishment occurs after a creditor sues a debtor for nonpayment and wins the lawsuit. The court can enforce wage garnishment, Or the court can enforce garnishment without a court order. Non-court-ordered garnishment may occur in cases such as back taxes, child support and student loans. The court notifies the debtor’s employer or bank about the garnishment, which typically begins within five to 30 business days. Garnishment continues until the original debt, court fees and interest are fully paid.

Determining the amount garnished

The government’s regulations determine how much of a person’s disposable income a creditor can take. According to the court, the creditor can take 25% of a person’s disposable income or the amount that exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage weekly. For credit card bills, medical bills or personal loans, if a person’s weekly disposable income is $290 or more, the creditor can take up to 25%. If the weekly income is between $217 and $289.99, anything exceeding $217 can be garnished. If a person earns less than $217, garnishment is not allowed.

Having one’s wages garnished is a challenging experience. Fortunately, there are regulations in place to limit the garnishment procedure, aiming to enable debtors to pay off their debts while still having access to some funds to cover necessary expenses.