Receiving a warning that a creditor intends to sue you to garnish your wages may be the straw that breaks your back. You are already struggling each week to keep your home, your vehicle and the necessities of life. If you have children, you may feel overwhelmed trying to provide them with the things they need and want. A wage garnishment can be a devastating blow to your fragile financial state.

Typically, such a garnishment will not come as a surprise. In addition to the notice you receive of the creditor’s intent to garnish your pay, you may already know how far behind you are on your debts. If it has been several months since you have made any payments to a particular creditor, that creditor has the right to seek payment through legal means. Wage garnishment is one of those avenues.

How much can they take?

When a creditor decides to garnish your wages, it means that creditor will petition the court for permission to require your employer to send a percentage of your disposable income directly to the creditor. This deduction happens until you have paid off the debt. Depending on how much you owe, that could be months or years.

The amount of money diverted from your paycheck depends on the kind of debt you owe, for example:

  • Most consumer credit, such as credit cards, medical bills and personal loans, may result in garnishment of up to 25 percent of your disposable income.
  • Federal debt, including back taxes and delinquent student loans, can lead to a 15 percent garnishment.
  • Child support and alimony are the most damaging debts to your paycheck, costing you up to 60 percent of your take-home pay and more if you are behind more than 12 weeks.

The law protects you from garnishment if you work fewer than 30 hours a week at minimum wage. Additionally, there may be other protections offered by the state of Tennessee.

While it may be little comfort to know, you are not alone. A significant number of workers have their wages garnished each year. However, you do have rights. The good news is that there are options available to stop the garnishment process and work toward eliminating your debt. Speaking with a legal professional about the alternatives that would best suit your situation is the first step toward debt relief.