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Stop Wage Garnishment in South Carolina

Dena Standley | July 07, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: South Carolina is an excellent place to live if you do not want consumer creditors to garnish your wages. Even with a judgment, the court cannot order employers to withhold money from your paycheck for debts such as auto loans and leases. The only exception is if a debtor owes money to the government, child or spousal support, or consumer debt with a judgment from another state.

Unlike many states, South Carolina does not allow wage garnishment for consumer debts. Such creditors may threaten consumers with wage garnishment, but they will never legally enforce it.

Debts that lead to garnishment are those you owe the state or federal government, child or spousal support, and those with a judgment and withholding order from your previous state of residence.

Unlike its neighbor North Carolina, South Carolina law does not require employers to honor wage garnishment orders from out-of-state. Creditors pursuing consumers who have recently relocated to South Carolina would need a new court order to continue wage garnishment.

A closer look at the state's wage garnishment laws reveals ways to stop the creditor from taking more than they should out of your paycheck. In this articles, we’ll break down these laws and ways you can stop wage garnishment in South Carolina.

South Carolina wage garnishment statutes

The Consumer Protection Code governs wage garnishment in South Carolina. Below is a breakdown of the applicable law.

Consumer debts do not qualify for garnishment

Consumer Protection Code Section 37-5-104 prevents a creditor from withholding money to be paid to a debtor to recover debts arising from consumer loans and credit. Consumer credit includes:

  • Credit cards
  • Consumer leases
  • Auto loan
  • Medical bills and other personal loans

A creditor can only garnish wages to recover consumer debt if they have a previously initiated garnishment order from the state where a debtor used to live. But even then, they would have to go to a South Carolina court to obtain a new order. South Carolina employers cannot withhold consumers' earnings based on an order from another state.

Back taxes do not require a court order

If you owe money to the South Carolina Department of Revenue or the IRS, they do not need a court judgment to garnish your wages. They can also recover tax arrears from typically exempt earnings, such as government benefits.

Federal loans qualify for garnishment without a court order

Like taxes, federal student loans use an administrative garnishment process that does not require a court order to implement.

Child and spousal support debts qualify for garnishment

An employer must satisfy a child support court order. The order can come from the South Carolina Department of Social Services, state court clerks, child support enforcement agencies from out-of-state, or a court in a different state. All child support orders have an automatic withholding order that an employer must obey.

Employers cannot terminate a debtor's employment because of garnishment

Wage garnishment adds to an employer's job description. If a creditor garnishes your wages, your employer becomes the garnishee. They must respond to the garnishment notice and ensure creditors receive their cut. For this reason, an employer may feel tempted to fire you. Fortunately, the law protects debtors undergoing garnishment from such unlawful terminations (Section 37-5-106).


Under South Carolina law, some of your earnings are exempt from garnishment:

  • The court can only grant a withholding order on your earnings if you earn more than 30 times the minimum hourly wage weekly. South Carolina's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Consumer creditors will not obtain a garnishment order if you earn $217.50 or less weekly in disposable income.
  • Supplemental Security Income, benefits for people living with disability, unemployment benefits, and Social Security are exempt from garnishment. So are annuities, retirement benefits, and life insurance.
  • Income from child support or alimony is typically exempt.

With these laws in mind, let us consider how you can stop wage garnishment in South Carolina.

Prevent and stop wage garnishment in South Carolina

If you recently relocated to South Carolina with an existing garnishment order, you may be unable to respond to the original lawsuit. But the creditor must still obtain a new court order to withhold your wages. Seize every opportunity to defend your rights when attending court hearings.

You can stop a wage garnishment order already in place by:

File for bankruptcy

Whenever a consumer files for bankruptcy, the filing initiates the Automatic Stay. You don't need to obtain a separate order for the Stay to start.

The injunction stops all creditors from collecting debts, at least for some time. Eventually, all dischargeable debts disappear, and you can start rebuilding your finances again.

Apply for exemptions

South Dakota law allows for multiple exemptions. You may qualify for one or of those discussed above.

For example, if you earn less than $217.50 a week, a consumer creditor cannot garnish part of it. If your only income is disability benefits, it is exempt. But you need to fill out an exemption form with the court clerk. The levying officer and the creditor should also receive a copy of your claim of exemptions.

There are exceptions when the debts are state and federal taxes or defaulted federal student loans. Such creditors garnish your wages without a court order and may even collect from typically exempt income.

Disputing the garnishment order

In South Carolina, a garnishment order may only be valid if backed by a court order from within the state. Some consumer creditors may try to garnish your wages with a money judgment. You can launch a formal dispute with the courts to overturn such garnishments.

Resolve your debts in South Carolina

Few creditors can garnish your wages in South Carolina than in most states. But you can still fall victim to wage garnishment if you owe taxes and spousal or child support. A garnishment order from your previous state of residence can also follow you into South Carolina.

Stop garnishment or reduce the amount by filing an exemption claim, disputing the order, or filing bankruptcy. SoloSuit also helps with debt elimination at different stages and can assist you in resolving your outstanding debts for good.

Respond to a debt lawsuit in South Carolina

If you’ve been sued for debt in South Carolina, you should respond to the case with a written Answer to increase your chances of winning.

To draft and file your Answer, follow these steps:

  1. Respond to each claim against you.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer in court, and send a copy to the opposing attorney.

SoloSuit can help you with all these steps and more. Learn more from our guide on How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in South Carolina (2023 Guide) or by watching the video below:

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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.

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