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Understanding wage garnishment in Ohio

Debt is a normal part of realizing our dreams, from education to home ownership. When we lose control of our debt, however, it can be begin to control us. Creditors have many ways of demanding payment and altering our lifestyles to unbearable degrees.

Wage garnishment -- in which creditors claim a portion of a debtor's take-home pay to resolve a debt -- is a common form of debt reconciliation if there is not a repayment plan in place. The federal government and the state of Ohio impose limits on wage garnishment for the financial health of workers.

In general, a creditor can garnish up to 25 percent of a debtor's take-home pay. Ohio requires a money judgment -- legal confirmation that a debt is owed -- before wages can be garnished. Governments fines, unpaid income taxes and student loans in arrears are exceptions, and do not require a money judgment before garnishment.

If a debtor has multiple judgments against them, Ohio law prioritizes them. For example, unpaid child support, income taxes and student loans take legal precedence over consumer loans and medical expenses.

Employers would often prefer to avoid the difficulty of complying with garnishment orders and may move to terminate the employees. Federal and Ohio law prohibit dismissing an employee based solely on wage garnishment status.

There are options to appeal a judgment or challenge wage garnishment if you believe the debts are not valid or garnishment poses a significant hardship to you and your family. An attorney can help you if your wages are being withheld to pay external debts.

Source: Garnishment Laws, "Ohio Garnishment Laws," accessed Aug. 17, 2017

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