The state of Virginia allows creditors to garnish wages to recover unpaid debts from consumers. Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act sets the federal limit on the amount an employer can garnish from a debtor's wages in a single week. In some ways, Virginia follows federal law.
To garnish wages in Virginia, a creditor must first file a lawsuit against the debtor and prove that the debtor owes the amount claimed in the suit. If the court agrees with the creditor, it grants a judgment. If the debtor does not pay the judgment, the creditor can return to the court and complete the necessary forms to garnish the debtor's wages. At the garnishment hearing, the debtor can explain why he hasn't paid the debt. If the court agrees with the creditor, it orders the wage garnishment, which tells the debtor's employer to withhold money from his wages.
Federal law restricts weekly withholding for an ordinary wage garnishment to the lesser of 25 percent of the employee's disposable income or the total by which the disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage. Virginia law requires the employer to withhold no more than the lesser of 25 percent of the employee's disposable earnings or the total by which the disposable earnings exceed 40 times the federal minimum hourly wage. Disposable income is the employee's pay after the employer subtracts deductions required by law.
A Virginia employee's pay can be garnished for child support or alimony. Virginia follows federal law, which says that up to 50 percent of the employee's pay can be garnished if she's supporting a child or spouse excluded from the support order and up to 60 percent if she's not. An additional 5 percent can be withheld for support payments over 12 weeks in arrears.
A judgment granted in Virginia accrues interest at the rate of 9 percent or at the contract rate, whichever is more. If a written contract with a specified interest rate exists, the judgment bears interest at that contract rate if it is higher than the judgment rate. An employer can collect a fee of up to $10 from the debtor to compensate for administering the wage garnishment.
A creditor in Virginia has three years to collect on open accounts, such as credit cards, and five years on written contracts.