How does garnishment work in West Virginia?

Although an alarming process, wage garnishment can largely be avoided.

If you have become delinquent on your debts, one of the forms of debt collection that you may have heard about is wage garnishment. Wage garnishment is a procedure where one of your creditors obtains an order from the court telling your employer to send them a portion of your wages. Not only is this an embarrassing situation, it also involves your employer in your personal problems. Thankfully, you can avoid the process entirely, if you have a basic understanding of your options.

Garnishment in West Virginia

In most cases, garnishment cannot happen without you knowing about it first. Except in a few circumstances, your creditor cannot garnish your wages until he or she has sued you for your delinquent debt and been awarded a judgment against you. Once the judgment has been obtained, the creditor has the option of asking the court for a garnishment order. If you ever receive notice of a lawsuit for an outstanding debt, it is wise to immediately consult an attorney. At this point, there are several ways to avoid garnishment entirely.

There are certain debts where the creditor does not have to file a lawsuit in order to garnish your wages. These debts include delinquent child support, student loans and income taxes.

If a creditor obtains a garnishment order, West Virginia law sets limits on how much may be taken from each paycheck. Under the law, creditors may only take the lesser of:

  • 20 percent of your disposable weekly earnings; or
  • The amount where your disposable weekly earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage

The law defines disposable earnings as the amount left over once taxes and other deductions have been taken from your paycheck. Although these limits are intended to ensure that you have enough income left over to cover your living expenses, they do not apply to income taxes, child support and student loan debts. As a result, creditors may take a greater portion of your paycheck to satisfy these debts.

Bankruptcy can help

Once a creditor obtains a judgment against you, your options in avoiding garnishment narrow significantly. In most cases, you may stop garnishment only by negotiating a repayment plan with your creditor or filing bankruptcy. Unfortunately, at this point, your creditors have little reason or incentive to work with you.

As a result of this reality, many people in this situation find that filing bankruptcy is the best solution. Once bankruptcy is filed, the bankruptcy court immediately halts all garnishment attempts. During the bankruptcy process, most of the debt that is the subject of the garnishment order is made current or eliminated, depending on the type of debt. This allows you to start over with a clean financial slate once you have completed bankruptcy.

If you are struggling with debts that you cannot afford, it is important to seek out the advice of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. An attorney can advise you on your options and recommend one that would be the most help for your unique circumstances.

Keywords: wage garnishment, bankruptcy