Wage garnishment can happen when a creditor has received a judgment against you in court. If a creditor files a lawsuit against you for debt that you owe, they can receive a judgment by winning the case in court, or by default if you fail to show up in court. When a judgment is obtained, a creditor will notify your employer with the documentation stating they are legally allowed to garnish wages. If your creditor is the federal government and the money you owe is for things like student loans, alimony, or child support, the court system may not need to be involved for your wage garnishment to occur.
Even when a judgment is awarded to a creditor you owe, you still have rights within the garnishment process. It’s possible to protect some or all your wages by filing an exemption claim. Here are some ways a skilled Nashville consumer protection attorney can use exemptions to protect your wages in Tennessee.
1. Understand Exempt Forms of Income
There are some forms of income that are automatically exempt. Some types of income cannot be garnished to pay off debts. Those wages include disability or social security benefits, Veterans benefits, welfare benefits, pensions, child support payments, or unemployment benefits. The only exceptions are that child support may be garnished from unemployment benefits. Payments for alimony, child support, or taxes may also be garnished from disability and retirement benefits.
All income from public assistance or welfare is protected by law. If welfare or another protected form of income is garnished, it may be a good time to reach out to a Nashville consumer protection attorney.
2. Know How Much Money Can Be Garnished
Even when the court allows a creditor to garnish wages to repay a debt, that doesn’t mean a creditor has free range with your money. Not only are there restrictions on the type of income they garnish, but there are restrictions on how much non-exempt income is garnished. The amount of income garnished per week cannot exceed more than 30 times the minimum wage or 25% of your disposable earnings, whichever is lesser. A certain amount of money remains protected, so you can still financially support yourself and your family.
While 25% or 30 times the minimum wage is almost always the amount of your wages protected from wage garnishment, more money can be garnished to pay child support. It’s possible for some states to have lower percentages for how much of your wages can be garnished, but for Tennesseans, 25% is correct. There are a few other exceptions to the rule relating to outstanding federal debt. If you have questions about the amount of your wages being garnished, consult a local consumer protection attorney in Davidson County.
3. File a Claim of Exemption
Whenever you are aware a judgment creditor has been given permission for a wage garnishment, or if you find garnished wages a surprise, you should file a claim of exemption quickly. Filing a claim with the court is the only way to protect your income. You must include your name, the name of the creditor suing you, and your case number to correctly file a claim. You will want to be sure the claim you file describes the exemption that will allow you to keep the most of your money and that you provide any proof you have to go along with it, like proof of dependents.
After filing the claim of exemption, a hearing will likely be held. You will need to attend the hearing and explain why the exemption applies to you. If the judge agrees the exemption applies to you, they will order a reduced amount to be garnished from you or for the wage garnishment to stop completely.
The skilled consumer protection attorneys at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC, can help you use exemptions in Nashville to protect your wages. Contact them at 615-845-4595 or complete the contact form to request a consultation.