Garnishment

Garnishment is an unfortunate legal remedy that creditors sometimes use to collect debt from people who do not or cannot pay. There are different types of garnishment, but the most common type is wage garnishment. During the wage garnishment process, a creditor may have a part of the debtor's wages or salary sent directly to the creditor to go toward a debt. A garnishment threat can be scary, but there are both federal and state laws protecting you from the illegal use of garnishment.

What You Need to Know about Garnishment

Pennsylvania has strong protections for consumers against garnishment – in fact, 100% of wages or salary are exempt from garnishment. In addition, Pennsylvania has broad exemptions for things like pensions or retirement benefits, worker's compensation, unemployment benefits, and usually life insurance benefits. However, this does not apply in cases of alimony, child support, owed student loans or taxes, or in certain landlord-tenant disputes, in which case wage garnishment is legal in Pennsylvania with a court order. Even this rule has exceptions – if your income is less than thirty times the federal minimum wage, wages cannot be garnished for student loans, federal taxes, or alimony. For individuals who are living below the poverty level, garnishment is never permitted. Threats to garnish wages by individuals or companies (such as credit card companies) where wage garnishment is not allowed is an illegal practice and the debt collector themselves may be sued for these types of threats.

Pennsylvania does permit what is called "bank garnishment." This means if you have money in a bank, a creditor may obtain a judgment against you in court and garnish whatever money is deposited there – even if that money is from a direct deposit of wages. Once the money is in the bank, it is subject to garnishment. The major exception to this rule is when you and a spouse share a bank account. To garnish joint bank accounts, creditors need a judgment against both spouses.

There is a possibility that a Pennsylvania debtor may be subject to wage garnishment by a different state if he or she has a legal connection to that state, such as Pennsylvanians who commute to New York or Washington, D.C. for work. In most cases however, Pennsylvania laws will govern the garnishment process.

Because all laws have exceptions, it is always important to consult a lawyer to discuss your options and ensure you are in control of what happens next. Attorney John M. Kenney has practiced law for more than 32 years with significant involvement as a bankruptcy attorney, and is highly familiar with the garnishment process and creditor disputes. John M. Kenney will zealously advocate for you and your family and protect your assets from creditors.

Free consultation: Contact John M. Kenney in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania for a free initial consultation about garnishment. Lawyer John M. Kenney has more than 32 years of experience in various areas of legal practice, and he is a trusted advisor to many Pennsylvania clients. To schedule a free consultation, please call (215) 547-3031, email jmk@jkenneylaw.com, or fill out and submit our online Contact Us form.