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Stop Wage Garnishment in Virginia

Dena Standley | July 11, 2023

Dena Standley
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Dena Standley, BA

Dena Standley is a seasoned paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in legal research and writing, having received a certification as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal from Southern Technical College.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: Virginia law protects consumers' rights and assists debtors in stopping wage garnishment. For example, the law prohibits creditors from garnishing more than 25% of a consumer’s wages, and some types of income are exempt from wage garnishment. Luckily, there are ways to avoid wage garnishment before it’s started and stop it once it has. SoloSettle can help you settle your debts before wage garnishment occurs.

Creditors in Virginia can use the established legal processes to get their money from debtors when other attempts at debt collection have failed. Creditors generally don’t resort to lawsuits as a first step because they are costly and often time-consuming. However, they can sue, and if they win, get their money back through wage garnishment.

If you do not respond to a debt lawsuit in Virginia with an Answer document, chances are you’ll lose the case automatically, giving your creditor or debt collector the right to garnish your paycheck and even access your bank account.

Once you receive the garnishment order, you will have several days to challenge it in court or negotiate with the creditor. This article will help you learn what to do in either of these options. We will discuss Virginia wage garnishment laws and look at the various ways you can stop wage garnishment or prevent it entirely.

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Virginia wage garnishment laws can protect you

Virginia uses state and federal laws to govern wage garnishment. These laws are found in the Virginia Code Title 34, chapters 1 to 4, and Federal Code 15 U.S.C. Fl. Statute 1671-1673. The following is a summary of these laws.

Amount limitation

Virginia law (VA Code § 34-29) limits the wage amount that can be garnished to 25% of your disposable earnings or the amount by which your disposable income surpasses 40 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. To illustrate, let’s look at an example of how wage garnishment works in Virginia.

Example: Jason earns $1000 per week after deductions in Virginia. So, 25% of 1000 is $250, and 40 times the minimum wage in Virginia is $12.00/hr x 40, which is $480. The lesser of the two findings is $250. Hence, $250 is the maximum amount a creditor can garnish from his paycheck.


Virginia law exempts certain incomes from wage garnishment. Examples are social security benefits, disability benefits, and workers' compensation benefits. These earnings qualify for exemption because they are intended to provide basic support for individuals unable to work due to disability or other reasons.

Code of Virginia § 8.01-512.4. outlines the types of income that exempt from wage garnishment in Virginia.

Employer Responsibility

Virginia law requires employers to notify employees when and how their wages will be garnished and to provide them with information about their rights under state law. They are also prevented from discriminating against or discharging an employee for having their wages undergo garnishment.

Creditor’s Role

A creditor must obtain a garnishment order from the court and communicate the same to you in written form at least ten days before the garnishment begins. The notification should also include a section stating your right to challenge the order.

Next, let's look at ways you can challenge the garnishment order.

Object to the wage garnishment

If you are facing wage garnishment in Virginia, you have the right to object to the garnishment and protect your income from being taken by creditors. Reasons you can use to object to the order include:

  • Financial hardship: Wage garnishment can cause significant financial hardship, especially if you struggle to make ends meet. Objecting can help you receive a more manageable payment plan with the creditor or have the garnishment order dismissed.

  • Incorrect garnishment amount: If you believe the amount being garnished is incorrect or exceeds the legal limit, you can object to the garnishment and have it reduced to the legal maximum.

  • Invalid debt: If the debt underlying the garnishment is invalid or you do not believe you owe the debt, you can object to the garnishment, but you must produce evidence.

  • Incorrect court procedures: If you believe the creditor did not follow the proper procedures, you can object to the garnishment on procedural grounds.

After filing your objection, you may be called for a hearing to argue your case before a judge. Afterward, they will rule for or against your claim and stop, modify, or continue with the garnishment order.

Instead of going through the garnishment process with your other debts, why not offer to settle for less than you owe? Here’s a video explaining how to go about settling a debt on your own:

File a Claim of Exemption in Virginia

Filing a claim of exemption is telling the court that you agree you owe the debt, but the garnishment order goes against state and federal laws. To file a claim of exemption in Virginia, you must first determine which exemptions apply to your situation. For instance:

  • You are the primary income earner in your household
  • Your income comes from public assistance programs
  • Your income falls under benefits protected by the government
  • Your wages fall beneath the federal poverty line

After identifying the exemptions that apply to you, file the claim with the court that issued the garnishment order—within ten days of receiving notice. If the court approves your claim of exemption, it will issue an order that protects the exempt income from garnishment. However, if the court denies your claim, you can appeal the decision or seek other legal remedies, such as filing for bankruptcy.

For more information on how to file a claim of exemption from wage garnishment in Virginia, check out Code of Virginia § 8.01-512.4.

Avoid wage garnishment through debt settlement

Negotiating a debt settlement with the creditor is an option to explore if they are willing to stop the garnishment order for a new payment plan. Most creditors will only accept negotiations if you promise to pay the entire debt or a lump sum and then clear the remaining balance within a short period.

Negotiating entails sending a debt settlement letter with an offer that is inviting but not an amount you cannot manage to pay upfront. SoloSettle is a tool that helps you draft a convincing settlement letter with all the legal information needed.

File for bankruptcy (last resort)

Consider filing for bankruptcy after you have explored all the above options. Bankruptcy is like a reset button that helps you start all over again. It discharges most of your debts but appears on your credit report for ten years.

SoloSuit has helped thousands of debtors avoid filing for bankruptcy using our resourceful articles, YouTube Videos, and legal documents that allow consumers to respond to creditors and debt collectors at any stage of the collection process. Explore these options with us today.

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