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Four key rights when facing wage garnishment

Wage garnishment is a way for those who are owed money to collect it from you after the debt becomes delinquent, without having to rely on you to pay it. Instead, the money is taken from your paycheck straight from your employer.

For example, if each monthly paycheck is for $4,000 and $1,000 is being garnished, you'll simply get paid $3,000 and the other $1,000, which you never see, goes to pay off the debt.

As you can imagine, this can feel like quite a violation. Can they really take your money up front like that? Is there anything you can do?

The best place to start is simply by making sure that you understand all of your legal rights. Some of them include:

-- You must be notified. Money cannot be garnished before you're told what is happening.

-- You can dispute the garnishment. For example, maybe you don't owe the money, but an accounting mistake makes it look like you do.

-- You shouldn't lose your job the first time. A single garnishment doesn't warrant a firing.

-- Some types of income can't be garnished. For instance, money can't be taken from veterans' benefits or Social Security benefits.

When you get that notice in the mail, or when money starts disappearing from your paychecks, you're going to need to understand all of the legal options that are available to you. Remember that you do have rights, whether or not you owe the debt. Always make sure you understand what they are and what steps you can take to get everything sorted out.

Source: Nerd Wallet, "Garnishment: What It Is, What You Can Do About It," Sean Pyles, accessed June 15, 2017

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