Sarah Edwards | June 21, 2023
Edited by Hannah Locklear
Summary: In Alabama, creditors cannot garnish more than 25% of your weekly disposable earnings. Luckily, there are ways to avoid wage garnishment before it happens, like filing an Answer to your debt lawsuit or settling the debt before your court date. If your wages are already being garnished in Alabama, you can file a claim of exemption to stop it.
If you owe money to a creditor in Alabama, you don’t want to end up on the receiving end of a debt lawsuit. Alabama has some of the strictest wage garnishment laws in the nation, and a creditor who wins a judgment against you can take a considerable portion of your pay until you satisfy your debt.
You don’t want to fork over your earnings to a creditor, so it’s best to resolve the claim before it ends in a judgment against you. In this article, explain how the wage garnishment laws work in Alabama and what you can do to protect yourself.
The federal government sets general wage garnishment limitations that states can adopt.
Some states choose wage garnishment limitations that differ from the national guidelines to give more leeway to debtors facing financial challenges. However, Alabama prescribes federal rules, making it one of the harsher states for individuals facing wage garnishment.
Under Ala. Code § 5-19-15, creditors who win a judgment against you and decide to garnish your wages can seize the lesser of:
Your disposable earnings equal your remaining salary after mandatory withholdings, like taxes. However, Alabama does not consider voluntary deductions like health and life insurance premiums to be required withholdings, so they’re part of your disposable earnings.
Let's consider an example to see how much you may pay in an Alabama wage garnishment.
Example: Harry takes out a $1,875 loan from Gringotts Bank to purchase a new wand and textbooks for the next school year. Unfortunately, Harry forgets about the loan when he uncovers a mystery in the school and sets out to solve it with his friends Hermione and Ron. The goblins at Gringotts get super angry and decide to sue Harry for his debt. They win their lawsuit and choose to garnish Harry’s wages in Alabama. Outside of school, Harry works as a Quidditch coach for local children. He takes home $750 weekly from his work. Under Alabama law, Gringotts Bank can seize $187.50 of Harry’s wages, or 25% of his earnings. That’s the lesser of the two options since $750 - (30 x $7.25) equals $532.50. Harry will pay the money for 10 weeks until he satisfies the loan.
Wage garnishment can be very costly, and it is something you’ll want to avoid so you can continue to pay for other things you need, like shelter and transportation.
If your creditors tire of you not paying your debts, they’ll eventually sue you. A debt collection lawsuit is a serious matter and not something you’ll want to ignore. If a creditor wins its claim, it will collect a judgment it can use to start the Alabama wage garnishment process.
You’ll know a creditor is suing you when you receive a court Summons and a Complaint. Your Summons will list the place and time of your hearing with the judge and your creditor. The Complaint will list the reasons for the lawsuit, including nonpayment of debt. It will also contain information about your obligation, like the total amount owed and your account number.
You should review the Complaint for any discrepancies that don’t match your records. For instance, if the lawsuit amount differs from what you believe you owe, you’ll want to note that. You can list that defense in your Answer, which you’ll send to the court and your creditor.
An Answer lists your defenses to the lawsuit if you have any. For instance, you might claim that the debt is past the statute of limitations or that the creditor didn’t correctly validate it.
If you don’t have any defense that applies to your case, you’ll still want to file an Answer. The Answer prevents the judge from granting a default judgment against you without hearing your side of the story. If nothing else, you’ll be able to have your say.
Watch the following video for ins and outs of writing an Answer in a debt lawsuit claim.
Once you draft your Answer and send it to the court and your creditor, you’ll need to decide how to resolve the legal claim. You have two options: repaying the debt or attempting to settle it. A third option — declaring bankruptcy — is also available, but you should only consider it if your financial circumstances are genuinely hopeless.
If you repay the debt, you’ll halt the lawsuit against you and say sayonara to your creditor. Your creditor must drop its legal claims since there’s nothing to sue you for. You won’t have to worry about wage garnishment and can move on from a tricky situation.
However, you might not have the money to repay the entire debt. In that case, debt settlement is the better alternative. In a debt settlement, you offer your creditor a portion of the amount it’s suing you for in a single payment. In return, it agrees to release you from the remaining debt and stop the lawsuit.
You’ll need to offer a decent amount if you want your creditor to take you seriously. Ideally, at least 60% of the debt’s value is a reasonable starting point. The creditor will decide whether your offer beats the costs of recovering the entire amount through the courts.
Want help settling your Alabama debt? SoloSettle is ready to come to your rescue — try it today!
Check out this video to learn more about how to settle your debt in Alabama:
If your wages are being garnished in Alabama and you can’t afford to pay your basic living expenses, you can fill out a Declaration and Claim of Exemption for Wages to officially ask the court to protect your paycheck.
When the court grants a claim of exemption in Alabama, the plaintiff can no longer take money from your paycheck. However, note that you will still owe the judgment and they can collect the money in other ways.
Just because a creditor is suing you doesn’t mean it will win — especially if you protect yourself. Write your Answer, then proceed to either repay or settle your debt. Once you resolve the issue, you won’t need to worry about wage garnishment anymore.
Do you need help drafting an Answer? SoloSuit’s Debt Answer template eases the process.
SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now are are just look for support, we're here for you.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.
Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.
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