A Kentucky Debtor’s Guide to Garnishment Withholding
Lawyers tend to go where the money is and debtors in serious financial difficulty can’t afford to pay for expert guidance in their time of greatest need. Self-help law is always an option, but proceeding as your own lawyer is difficult and it is often dangerous. Acting as your own lawyer is for the very brave, the very foolish or the very desperate. Except for the fact that I do it myself all the time, I don’t recommend jumping into the shark pool alone. The possibilities are sink, swim or be eaten alive.
With that warning in mind, I know that the brave, foolish or desperate will go it alone anyway. I have to admit that proceeding without a lawyer is often a much safer and better option than is doing nothing. Although our legal system is vast, confusing and complex, most personal legal problems are not all that difficult. With enough information, clearly explained, I firmly believe that anyone with average intelligence or above can fairly quickly understand his or her available legal options, and decide how to pursue a useful course of action.
Please remember the legal outcome is never guaranteed, there is always the possibility that you will make your situation worse and there are ways to get professional legal advice for free.
Garnishment is a generic legal term for a debt collection method for confiscating a debtor’s money or property from a third party. Different states may use different words to name the same basic procedure. There are two general categories of garnishment: wage garnishment and non-wage garnishment.
Wage garnishment happens when a creditor forces a debtor’s employer to withhold a portion of one or more paychecks to satisfy a debt.
Non-wage garnishment happens when a creditor forces any third party to turn over any money or personal property in the third party’s possession that belongs to or is owed to the debtor, to satisfy a debt. Typically, a debtor’s bank accounts may be garnished, but non-wage garnishments are not limited to bank accounts.
There are two general legal mechanisms by which a creditor may force a garnishment: judicial and administrative.
Judicial garnishments arise from credit card debts, consumer loan debts, personal injury damage awards, breach of contract damages, divorce property settlement debts, debts or damages in landlord-tenant disputes or any other of the many ways a person can be in debt because of having been sued in a court of law.
Administrative garnishments can result from tax debts, student loan debts, child support debts, or from nearly any debt owed to the federal government. Administrative garnishments generally do not involve the court system at all.
Each of these different type of garnishments involve different rules and procedures, so it is of critical importance that a debtor know the type of debt involved in the garnishment debt collection process. Since each state has different garnishment collection laws, it is important not to be confused by using the wrong set of state rules.
Unfortunately, there is another type of garnishment, which I call the scam garnishment. This type of garnishment may appear when an unscrupulous creditor deceptively tries to use an administrative garnishment process for a consumer debt collection that ought to proceed as a judicial garnishment, for example. Tricksters may even attempt to collect a debt that does not exist or which has expired.
More often, I suspect, honest mistakes happen. The wrong amount is claimed, a payment is overlooked or the wrong interest rate is applied to a legitimate outstanding debt. In any event, a debtor who is subject to a garnishment proceeding will be well served by a careful examination of the debt that is claimed and by an understanding of the proper legal procedures which control the collection process.
Finally, in every state there are provisions for limits and exceptions to the type and amount of property or cash that creditors can seize in the garnishment debt collection process. A few of these limits are fairly automatic from a debtor’s point of view, but there are many others that a debtor must act upon in order to claim and preserve. Knowing what the exemptions are and how to claim them is important. It is also time-critical. A debtor’s diligence and prompt action can make a big difference.