Sarah Edwards | July 03, 2023
Edited by Hannah Locklear
Summary: In Maryland, a wage garnishment can take a serious bite out of your income. Luckily, there are laws to protect you and ways to stop wage garnishment once it’s started. Even better, you can avoid wage garnishment in the first place through debt settlement. SoloSettle makes the debt settlement process easy.
You may be worried about wage garnishment if you’re currently behind on your debts. A wage garnishment requires your employer to withhold a portion of your pay on behalf of a creditor you owe. The amount withheld depends on your earnings, the amount you owe, and state law.
A wage garnishment will continue until you repay the debt or stop working. You’ll often face higher payments with wage garnishment than you would if you had stuck with your regular payment arrangements.
Usually, wage garnishment is entirely avoidable if you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.
News flash: Creditors can’t contact your employer directly and ask them to start withholding part of your salary on their behalf. They must go through an extensive legal process and win a debt lawsuit against you before they can garnish your wages.
So if you’re behind on a few payments and worried your creditor could garnish your wages, you can put your fears to rest — for now.
The best way to avoid wage garnishment is to stay on top of your bills. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re going through a tough financial situation. Perhaps you lost a primary source of income or encountered some unexpected expenses. Whatever the reason, if you fall behind, it’s not easy to get caught up again.
In the early stages of missed payments, creditors usually start calling you. You may receive letters or emails asking you to get you back on track with your payment schedule.
It’s best to communicate with your creditors and explain what’s happening. They may cut you some slack, remove late payment fees, or give you a few extra weeks to get your financials in order.
When you ignore a creditor’s messages, it will step up its collection efforts. In the worst-case situation, the creditor may decide to sue you.
You don’t want to ignore a debt lawsuit. If a creditor sues you, you must take action to protect yourself.
Start by responding to the creditor’s Complaint with an Answer. An Answer is your formal response to a debt lawsuit and indicates any defenses you have for not paying your bills. You may argue against the lawsuit’s validity or claim that the amount you’re being sued for doesn’t align with your records.
An Answer prevents your creditor from obtaining a default judgment in the debt lawsuit against you. Instead, the judge must listen to your defense before deciding on your case’s outcome.
Ideally, you’ll resolve your creditor’s claim before court. That way, you’ll never need to appear before the judge, and you can move on without worrying about wage garnishment.
You have two options for resolving the debt before your court date. You can either fully repay it or attempt to settle it.
Repaying the debt stops all forms of legal action against you. Your creditor will need to drop its lawsuit since it no longer has a reason to sue you. There won’t be any judgment, and you won’t need to fear wage garnishment.
If you don’t have the money to pay the debt off completely, you can try to settle it instead.
In a debt settlement, you offer your creditor a percentage of the debt you owe. Usually, offering 60% of the debt’s value is enough to kick off the settlement process. Your creditor might accept your offer and agree to drop the lawsuit, or it might ask for more money.
If you can negotiate a debt settlement, the debt lawsuit and the potential for wage garnishment go away.
To learn more about how to stop wage garnishment through debt settlement in Maryland, check out this video:
SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, is a tech-based approach to debt settlement. Our software helps you send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with the collector. Once an agreement is reached, we’ll help you manage the settlement documentation and transfer your payment to the creditor or debt collector, helping you keep your financial information private and secure.
Some types of income are exempt from wage garnishment in Maryland, including:
If you receive any of these types of income, you may be exempt from wage garnishment. In order to formally request an exemption, you should file a Motion for Release of Property from Levy/Garnishment.
Why is it so essential to avoid wage garnishment in Maryland? Because Maryland has strict wage garnishment laws.
Each state sets its own rules concerning wage garnishment, and Maryland’s regulations are among the most arduous. According to Md. Code, Commercial Law, § 15-601.1, creditors can withhold the lesser of:
Disposable earnings equal your weekly salary less any required withholdings, such as federal and state taxes. Unlike in some states, any premiums you pay for employer-provided health care coverage are exempt from disposable earnings in Maryland.
You’ll also need to take care to avoid multiple wage garnishments. Under Md. Code, Commercial Law, § 15-606, incurring more than one wage garnishment in a calendar year gives your employer grounds to terminate your employment.
Let’s consider an example of how wage garnishment works in Maryland.
Example: Rachel stopped making payments on her Le Bankira credit card six months ago. She didn’t try to resolve the matter, and now Le Bankira is suing her for $3,000 in unpaid debt in Maryland. Rachel ignores the lawsuit, and Le Bankira wins a judgment it can use to garnish her wages. Rachel makes $1,200 weekly in disposable earnings as a personal shopper for Ralph Lauren. Under Maryland law, Le Bankira can garnish her wages for $300 weekly until she satisfies the debt. It’s the lesser of the available alternatives since $1,200 - (30 x $12.50) is $825.
In our example, Rachel could have avoided the wage garnishment if she had responded to Le Bankira’s Complaint and resolved the debt before her court date. Now, she’s stuck with a $300 wage garnishment for ten weeks, making it hard for her to afford other expenses, like rent and transportation.
Few people can say they’ve never missed a payment or experienced a financial issue. However, it’s how you handle the problem that makes the difference.
Don’t let your creditors garnish your wages. Instead, try to pay off the debt before your court date or arrange a settlement. You won’t need to worry about wage garnishment or a judgment if your efforts are successful.
Not sure where to start with a Maryland debt settlement? Try out SoloSettle today!
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.
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