Understanding and avoiding wage garnishment in Mississippi

Those facing wage garnishment in Mississippi are well advised to learn about their rights.

If you owe money for credit cards, medical bills and other unsecured debts, wage garnishment is one of the ways that your creditors can collect what is owed. You may already know that wage garnishment is a court order that requires your employer to set aside a percentage of your paycheck for your debts. If you are facing the possibility of garnishment, it is important to know that there are limitations on how much may be garnished as well as understand that there are ways of avoiding this unpleasant process completely.

When it can happen

In Mississippi, your wages cannot be garnished without your knowledge in most cases. In the majority of instances, your creditor must first file and win a lawsuit against you before garnishment is even a question. If the court rules in the creditor's favor, it can then award a judgment against you. With the judgment in hand, only then can a creditor ask the court to allow garnishment of your wages.

Although this is the rule in most cases, there are some exceptions. For example, creditors are allowed by law to garnish your wages if you owe taxes, child support and student loans without first obtaining a judgment.

Limitations

Even if a creditor has received a court order to garnish your wages, it does not mean that it can take your whole paycheck. In order to ensure that you have sufficient wages for living expenses and necessities, Mississippi law limits the amount that may be garnished to the lesser of: 25 percent of your disposable earnings or 30 times the federal minimum wage. "Disposable earnings" are what is left over after your employer has deducted taxes and other expenses from your paycheck.

In addition, Mississippi law protects you from immediate garnishment. The law requires creditors to wait 30 days after they have served you with a garnishment order before they may take the allowed portion of your paycheck. During this time, you have the opportunity to work out a plan to pay off the debt and avoid the process completely.

Finally, the law limits the total amount that may be garnished from your paycheck to a maximum of 25 percent of your disposable earnings. For example, if one creditor is garnishing 20 percent of your wages, another creditor can only take five percent.

Avoiding garnishment

Since many people would prefer that their employer stay out of their personal financial problems, many do what they can to avoid the garnishment process completely. Sometimes creditors allow you to do this by working out a payment plan with them. However, if you cannot keep up with the payments or work out a deal, the best way to prevent garnishment is typically bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy's automatic stay immediately halts all garnishments the day that you file. As you complete the bankruptcy process, most of your debts that caused you to face garnishment are wiped away. This allows you to start over again with a clean slate financially, once you have completed bankruptcy.

To learn more about whether bankruptcy would be able to effectively address your debt problem, contact the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at the Pond Law Firm. Our attorneys can examine your situation and recommend the best way to proceed.

Keywords: bankruptcy, wage garnishment