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Florida has certain laws in place that limit how much creditors can withhold from your wages. Southeast Bankruptcy, LLC is deeply familiar with every feature of financial law, including wage garnishment issues, and can help you navigate the legal system effectively. We aim to be accessible to clients at all hours of the day to ensure you have peace of mind when facing issues as serious as your finances. We will handle your financial matters with compassion, dignity, and respect as we guide you towards a fresh start in your financial life.
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Recall that a wage garnishment, also called a wage attachment, is a court order that requires your employer to withhold some amount of money from your paycheck and send this money directly to your creditors. Most creditors cannot get a wage garnishment order against you, though, until they’ve first obtained a court judgment that you owe them money (e.g., you’re behind on credit card payments, you owe a doctor’s bill). In such situations, creditors must file a lawsuit, win, and then get a judgment against you in order to initiate a wage garnishment.
In the following situations, however, your wages may be garnished without the creditor having to pursue a lawsuit:
- you have unpaid income taxes;
- you are subject to a court-ordered child support order;
- you have defaulted federal student loans.
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Federal law establishes certain limits on how much money can be garnished from your paycheck. These limits usually aim to ensure you have at least enough left to pay for your daily living expenses. More specifically, federal law holds that a creditor can garnish 25% of your disposable income or the amount by which your disposable income exceeds 30 times federal minimum wage, whichever is less. Under Florida state law, if your disposable income is less than 30 times federal minimum wage, your wages can't be garnished at all.
Disposable income includes wages left after your employer has made the appropriate deductions required by law, such as:
- federal, state, local taxes;
- Social Security;
- the employee portion of state unemployment compensation insurance.
Florida also implements a “head of family” exception, which holds that those who are head of the family and who have wages of $750 per week or less cannot have their wages garnished unless you agree to the garnishment in writing. To qualify as head of the family, you must provide more than half of the support for a child or other dependent. Noe that this exemption isn't automatic; you must claim it by filing an affidavit with the court when you’ve been notified of a creditor’s wage garnishment request.
Federal law also states that if you have more than one garnishment, the total amount garnishment amount is limited to 25%. For example, if the federal government is garnishing 15% of your income to repay defaulted student loans and your employer receives a second wage garnishment order, they can only garnish another 10% of your income.
Wage garnishments that don’t require court judgments also have limits and rules. In particular, federal law establishes that up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay child support if you are currently supporting a spouse or a child who isn't the subject of the order. If you aren't supporting another spouse or child, up to 60% of your earnings may be garnished. An additional 5% may be garnished for support payments over 12 weeks in arrears.
As discussed earlier, if you are in default on a federal student loan, the U.S. Department of Education can also garnish your wages without needing to get a court judgment, called an "administrative garnishment." The most that they can garnish, however, is 15% of your disposable income, but not more than 30 times the minimum wage.
The federal government can also garnish your wages if you owe back taxes, and the amount of garnishment depends on how many dependents you have and your deduction rate.
For legal assistance in your wage garnishment case, contact Southeast Bankruptcy, LLC. We can help you take a look at a wage garnishment order against you and make sure your rights are not being infringed by wage garnishment. Our firm can make sure the federal and state limits are being appropriately applied to your case and help you pursue any exemptions or relief options for wage garnishment. After all, wage garnishment is meant to help you repay your debts, not keep you in debt.
Get back on strong financial footing with Southeast Bankruptcy, LLC. Contact our firm online for a free consultation to get started. Spanish interpretation services available.