Wage garnishment is the legal proceeding where a creditor asks the court to require an employer to withhold wages for the purposes of repayment of a debt. To initiate the garnishment, the creditor must have a judgment on a debt.
Many people find out that an old creditor filed a lawsuit against them after noticing that their paychecks are short. This can happen for any number of reasons, and it can feel overwhelming and confusing for clients who are not sure what next steps to take.
It's vitally important to know your rights and what protections are available to you. For example, if this is the first debt for which your wages are being garnished, your employer may not fire or relieve you of duties because of the garnishment.
There are legal remedies for garnishment, although they vary widely based on the context of each individual case.
There are a few key considerations for any wage garnishment case. They include:
1) Is the underlying judgment valid? One way to stop wage garnishment is to invalidate the underlying judgement. Reasons the judgement may be invalid include jurisdictional issues, improper service, or fraud perpetuated on the court, which means the creditor garnishing you intentionally deceived the court at any stage of the proceedings.
2) Are you a member of the military? For service members in any branch of service who were on active duty at the time of the judgement, special exemptions may apply.
3) Can a settlement be reached? Coming to an agreement with the creditor who received the judgement against you is another way to stop wage garnishment. Having an experienced attorney negotiate on your behalf can help you arrive at this kind of agreement, formally known as accord and satisfaction.
A garnishment will not help you pay off the debt. Because wage garnishments in Virginia last for 180 days, a creditor is likely to initiate a garnishment every six months. The creditor will pass the cost of each garnishment to you. In addition, your employer may charge you a fee for processing each garnishment.
As always, our advice is to contact a licensed attorney as soon as possible to discuss your unique situation and help you remove your employer from your financial affairs.
This post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship until retainer agreement signed by client and lawyer.