It is not a pleasant experience to have wages withheld by an employer due to a court order, but it can happen to anyone who is struggling to pay debt. Ohio law allows wage garnishment, which is the legal method used to collect money a person owes by taking the money directly out of the person’s paycheck.
Wage garnishment can be obtained if a judge finds that the debtor is legally obligated to pay money to a creditor. The judge will then issue a court order that will direct the debtor’s employer to withhold part of the debtor’s pay and that money will be applied toward the debt.
Under Ohio law, the debtor must be notified when a creditor applies for a garnishment order. The debtor has the right to a hearing to try to avoid garnishment or limit how much income can be garnished.
Up to 25 percent of eligible disposable income can be withheld through garnishment. Disposable income is the money left over in a paycheck after taxes and mandatory deductions are taken out. Mandatory deductions include Ohio Works First cash payments, Social Security benefits, worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits. This means any income received from those sources cannot be garnished. State law also protects child support obligations. A child support order takes precedence over other debts, even if it leaves little or no income eligible to be garnished.
To avoid garnishment the debtor can try to negotiate directly with the person or company that obtained the judgment to see if they will agree to a payment plan.
The other way to stop garnishment is to file for bankruptcy. Immediately upon filing, the bankruptcy court issues an automatic stay — meaning that creditors are prevented from attempting any further collection actions, including wage garnishment. This stay is in effect throughout the bankruptcy process, when all of the debtor’s obligations will either be eliminated or organized into a manageable repayment plan.
Negotiating with creditors who have sought a wage garnishment can be difficult, and only an attorney can advise those in debt if bankruptcy is right for them. Anyone who has received a garnishment notice should immediately consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.