Garnishments allow creditors to take their judgment and request the court to have a debtor's wages withheld to pay off a debt. However, judgment debtors might be able to fight against the garnishment by filing objections with the court. In some instances, a debtor might even be able to get back wages that have already been taken.
Review the Garnishment Papers
Federal courts and some state courts require the debtor to receive notice before a garnishment become effective. This notice might provide instructions on how objections should be made. For example, federal courts allow the debtor to file a written objection within 20 days of receiving the employer's answer. Written objections must also be served on the creditor and the employer.
Check Garnishment Amount
Some creditors might attempt to take more wages than they are entitled to. Federal law permits creditors to take the lower of 25 percent of a debtor's disposable wages or the amount by which their disposable wages exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage. However, certain kinds of debts have even lower thresholds. For example, defaulted federal student loans can result in garnishments up to 15 percent of an employee's disposable earnings. States are free to pass laws that place stricter provisions on the amount that a creditor can garnish.
Review State Grounds
A debtor may have different grounds for objection based on the state law being applied to the case. Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina prohibit wage garnishments for most consumer debts. Some states allow for a head of household exemption for a debtor who is providing for her family. Oklahoma has an "undue hardship exemption" that is available for people who need all of their wages to support their families.
Write the Objections
Once you know the legal basis for the objection, prepare a written statement to the court. The written objection should include a case heading that states the names of the debtor, creditor and employer. It should also list the name of the court, the division and the case number. The objection form should state that you are objecting to the garnishment and the grounds for the objection. Include any evidence of these grounds, such as your check stub. Some states have a standard form for such objections.
Once you're done, sign the objection form. Ensure that you file the objections within the time limit. Some time limits are very short. For example, Oklahoma's undue hardship exemption must be filed within five days of receiving notice of the garnishment.
Request a Hearing
You might be required to present your objections in a hearing. In your written objections, include a provision in which you request a hearing on the matter so that you can prove why all or a portion of your wages are exempt from garnishment. The request for a hearing should be served on the creditor and the employer.
- Cornell University Law School: 28 U.S. Code § 3205 - Garnishment
- Civil Law Self-Help Program: Contesting A Garnishment Or Attachment
- AllLaw: Grounds for Objection to Wage Garnishment
- United States Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #30 -- The Federal Wage Garnishment Law, Consumer Credit Protection Act's Title 3 (CCPA)
- National Public Radio: Millions Of Americans' Wages Seized Over Credit Card And Medical Debt
- OKLaw.org: What Can I Do About a Garnishment?
- Nolo: How to Object to a Wage Garnishment
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