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Stop Wage Garnishment in Tennessee

Dena Standley | June 29, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: Tennessee law allows you to stop a wage garnishment by requesting a payment plan, paying off the debt, filing for bankruptcy, and applying for exemptions. Understand how these regulations work and which may work best for your circumstances. Alternatively, you can avoid wage garnishment in the first place when you settle your debt with the help of SoloSettle.

Debtors facing wage garnishment in Tennessee have several ways out, thanks to the state and federal consumer protection laws that are in place.

Tennessee's wage garnishment law protects some of your income from debt collectors. So creditors cannot take your entire salary even if you have multiple garnishments or a huge judgment amount to pay.

Although the regulations closely mimic federal wage garnishment laws, there are a few notable differences. In this article, we will discuss those statutes. Further, we will see how to eliminate a wage garnishment order or lower the amounts deducted from your pay.

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Tennessee wage garnishment laws

It is necessary for any worker facing wage garnishment to understand how the law works. Only with this knowledge can they successfully maneuver the murky waters of paycheck garnishments in these challenging economic times.

Fortunately, Tennessee wage garnishment laws are easy to understand if you take the time to review them. Here are some fundamentals of those laws.

Limits on garnishments

Regular (consumer) creditors can only take up to 25% of your disposable earnings, but you must keep at least $217.5 weekly. Debtors with dependents under 16 years and who live in Tennessee keep an additional $2.50 per dependent.

While creditors can only garnish 25%, some other types of garnishment, such as child support, allow for a greater percentage of your wages to be garnished. For example, if you are late on child support, the Tennessee Code 36-5-501 allows garnishment of up to 50% of your total and 60% if you are more than 12 weeks late.

The law defines disposable income as money left after mandatory deductions, such as taxes. Voluntary deductions do not count.

Employment termination

Tennessee applies federal law to protect debtors facing garnishment orders from termination. If only one creditor garnishes your wages, your employer cannot dismiss you. However, the wage garnishment provisions in the Consumer Credit Protection Act does not protect you if your employer receives multiple garnishment orders.

Court judgments

Consumer creditors require court judgments to garnish a debtor's paycheck. The process follows this general pattern:

  1. You default on a debt.
  2. The creditor or debt collector tries to collect unsuccessfully.
  3. The creditor sues you and serves you the court papers.
  4. You respond to the lawsuit (or not) within 30 days.
  5. The plaintiff wins the case (by default or otherwise).
  6. The creditor requests a garnishment order from the court.
  7. If granted, the creditor serves you and your employer the paperwork.
  8. Your employer begins withholding money from your next paycheck and sends it to the creditor.

It is noteworthy that public and domestic support debts do not require a court judgment for garnishment to commence. And all child support orders have an automatic withholding order that applies each time you are late.

While the government does not require a court order to garnish, they generally give a 30-day notice before starting to withhold money. You may request a hearing within those 30 days if you have something to refute the information used in the court-ordered garnishment.

How long does a garnishment order last in Tennessee?

A garnishment order is only valid for six months, after which the creditor must obtain a new one. Thus a judgment creditor with a wage withholding order in Tennessee will likely start the garnishment soon after receipt. In states where an order can last even 20 years, the creditor may not be in a hurry to begin recovering the debt.

The more times a creditor renews a garnishment order, the more court fees a debtor may need to pay.

Notice of garnishment

After obtaining the order to garnish, the creditor (garnisher) must notify you (the debtor) and your employer (the garnishee) under Rule 69.05 Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Your employer may provide additional information to the court about your wages or if any other creditors are already withholding part of your income.

You can respond to the notice, too, if you have an issue to raise. Otherwise, the court will assume you agree, and the garnishment will start.

Reacting to wage garnishment in Tennessee

One way to react to a wage garnishment order in Tennessee is to do nothing. In that case, the order will run its course until the debt is fully paid or the order expires.

Most consumers cannot live on three-quarters of their weekly income. If that is true in your case, Tennessee offers these four options:

Request a payment plan

Tennessee has this additional option where the debtor can request to set up an alternative repayment plan with the judgment creditor. This move stops garnishment, helps debtors keep more of their income, and avoid involving their employers in employee’s debts.

Ask for exemptions

Generally, federal benefits are exempt from garnishment. Such income as SSI, Social Security, disability, unemployment, and government-required retirement benefits are safe from consumer creditors.

You can apply for this exemption by listing your income sources and proving they are exempt. Also, as discussed, you must keep at least 30 times the minimum wage weekly. For Tennessee, that is $217.5 ($7.25×30).

Pay off the debt in full

You can avoid garnishment by paying off a creditor who has a withholding order. The garnishment will be unnecessary if you can pay the entire judgment amount. Some choose this option to save on the additional charges associated with garnishment.

You can also offer the creditor an amount less than you owe, typically a lump sum amount, so that they can stop the garnishment.

How to Settle a Debt in Tennessee.

File for bankruptcy

If you have no other way out and need a quick fix, consider filing for bankruptcy.

When you start filing, all creditors receive notice to stop collecting debts. When the bankruptcy is successful, it wipes out all dischargeable debts. Garnishments for those debts end forever.

Some debts may not disappear in bankruptcy, but collection pauses for a while. Also, the fewer debts left, are easier to keep up with. And despite bankruptcy hurting your credit for a time, you can grow it back up following the relief you will experience.

Consumers struggle with debt collection issues all over the country. So SoloSuit has built an online app to assist consumers with overwhelming debt to recover financially.

Related Read: Answer a Debt Collection Summons in Tennessee.

Settle your debt to avoid wage garnishment in Tennessee

In a debt settlement, you offer the creditor a percentage of the total amount due. In exchange, your creditor agrees to drop the lawsuit against you and release you from the remaining balance.

Sounds great, right? You’ll save a bit of money and avoid a judgment and wage garnishment. However, creditors don’t have to accept a settlement. They only will if it benefits them. Thus, you’ll want to offer a reasonable amount, like 60% of the total value of the debt. Your creditor will let you know if that’s enough or if it will require more.

Debt settlement can be confusing — especially if you’ve never tried it. SoloSettle can help.

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.

To learn more about how to settle your debt in Tennessee, watch the following video:

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