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How Long Before a Creditor Can Garnish Wages?

George Simons | October 28, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: Have a creditor threatening to garnish your wages over an old debt? Not sure how you're going to win the fight? Learn what to do to win your debt collection lawsuit.

Wage garnishment is not one of the easiest things to come to terms with, especially if you are in a bad financial situation. However, the law allows a creditor to garnish your wages when necessary. In general, a creditor, with a few exceptions, needs to have obtained a court order after a successful debt collection lawsuit to effect a wage garnishment.

Some legal means of debt collection efforts creditors use include phone calls, messages, and letters. If these efforts do not succeed after a certain period, then a lawsuit may be the next option. However, if the debt collector wins the case, they can obtain a court order to garnish your wage.

This article discusses the different timelines that lead to wage garnishment.

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The process of wage garnishment order

As mentioned above, the creditor and the debt collector will make legal attempts to pursue a borrower for outstanding payments. If you miss a couple of days (normally 30 days) on your loan repayment, the original creditor will reach out to you. They may do so for about 180 days before deciding to sell the debt to a collector.

Once they track you down, collectors will employ different debt collection tactics, including calls, letters, or even attempts to discuss a repayment plan with them. Then, after about 10-12 months, the collectors may decide to file a lawsuit, effectively opening a new chapter in the attempt to recover what you supposedly owe.

The lawsuit

Many debt collectors would not want to be caught up with the statute of limitations, especially if that particular state does not allow them to pursue a borrower after the debt is time-barred.

After filing, it may take 3-4 weeks for the court to issue a hearing for the case. The collector is also expected to notify the borrower of the court hearing within a certain period, which varies depending on the state.

After the Lawsuit

If the court rules in favor of the debt collector and they obtain a wage garnishment order, they are required to fulfill some obligations before they can collect any money from the borrower's wage. Sometimes, the court may mandate the debt collector to notify the borrower of the court proceedings to collect the debt.

The debtor will then wait for at least 15 days of notifying the borrower before filing the wage garnishment order. In other cases, as the state laws allow, the collector may not be obliged to notify the borrower before filing the wage garnishment.

Notifying the garnishee

Once the employer has received the garnishment order, they are legally required to comply. For example, the garnishment order may require that it be effected from the next paycheck. This may be roughly 30 days after filing the garnishment at the beginning of the month.

In some cases, the court may request the employer to respond to the garnishment filed to provide further information, such as whether the employee has other wage garnishment orders on their paycheck. Usually, the court expects the employer's answer within 30 days after receiving the garnishment notice.

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Statute of limitations on wage garnishment

Each state has different periods during which a garnishment judgment can be effective. Some garnishments can run for 60 days, while others last for 20 years. However, the collector may only receive their money until when the debt is paid off.

If the garnishment period ends before clearing the debt, the collector can have it renewed. In most cases, the renewal comes with additional costs to the borrower, such as court fees. Also, the garnishment period depends on the amount of debt and the percentage to be garnished on every paycheck.

Garnishment of government debts

The US government does not require a garnishment order before collecting their debts. However, the relevant government agency needs to provide a 30-day notice before the beginning of garnishment. If you are not comfortable with the notice, you can request a hearing to plead the case within those 30 days.

The process of garnishing an individual's wages is complicated and governed by an array of statutes and regulations. If a debt collection company has attempted to garnish your wages, you may have grounds to contest the garnishment.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

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