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What are the parameters for triggering wage garnishment?

Wage garnishment can be a punitive and troubling element in any person's life. Your income and paychecks are obviously vital to your ability to live your life and pay for things that are basic and crucial. So when an outside entity has the ability to come in and claim a portion of your wages due to a debt that is owed, it can make an already stressful situation even worse for the debtor.

But it isn't as though a creditor can just say "okay, we'll garnish your wages, thank you very much" and then it's a reality. There is a very clear and precise legal process that a creditor has to go through before they can take a portion of your wages to pay off a debt.

The creditor must schedule a hearing in court to litigate the potential wage garnishment. The debtor, in most cases, must be informed of the hearing. At the hearing, the creditor must prove the debtor owes them money and that the debtor has failed to pay them. If a judge agrees, then he or she will allow the process to garnish the debtor's wages to move forward by issuing an order that the debtor's paycheck will be garnished to fulfill the debtor's debt.

At this point, the court must send a letter with specific instructions to your employer, instructing them to garnish your wages. Then your employer has to inform you that the wage garnishment will occur. Only a portion of your paycheck can be garnished, and there are protections in place to prevent the garnishment from being too punitive.

Source: FindLaw, "Wage Garnishment," Accessed Oct. 25, 2016

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