What to know if faced with garnishment in Tennessee

In Tennessee, wage garnishment can be avoided by filing bankruptcy.

These days, if you are behind on your bills, you are not alone, as many in Tennessee are in the same boat. However, if this is the case, you may face the threat of wage garnishment. Garnishment is a court order that tells your employer to withhold a portion of your wages to be applied towards your debt. If you are in this situation, it is important to be familiar with how the garnishment process works and what can be done about it.

Garnishment in Tennessee

In most cases, a creditor must sue you and win a judgment against you before your wages may be garnished. However, in Tennessee, there are a few types of debt where a creditor does not have to get a judgment against you first:

  • Child support
  • Income taxes
  • Student loans

In cases other than these exceptions, once the creditor has obtained the judgment, it may ask the court to garnish your wages. If the order is granted, your employer must obey the order and withhold a portion of your wages. Since complying with the order is a hassle for employers (who may wish to terminate your employment as a result), federal law protects you against being fired because of garnishment, assuming that your wages are subject to a maximum of one garnishment order.

Limitations on garnishment

If you wages are being garnished, Tennessee law protects how much may be garnished from each paycheck, so that you have enough income left over to pay for necessities. Under the law, the most that can be garnished from your paycheck is the larger of:

  • 25 percent of your disposable weekly earnings (i.e. earnings after deductions for taxes and other expenses); or
  • The amount by which your weekly disposable earnings exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage

Additionally, the law allows you to keep up to $2.50 per week for each dependent child that you support. If your wages are being garnished by more than one creditor, the law sets the maximum amount that may be garnished (regardless of number of creditors) to 25 percent of your weekly disposable earnings.

Avoiding garnishment

If you receive notice of a garnishment order, you may be able to avoid having your wages garnished by attempting to negotiate a repayment plan with your creditor. However, in many cases, creditors may refuse to work with you. If this is the case, filing bankruptcy can help your situation. Once you have filed bankruptcy, the automatic stay stops all debt collection, including garnishment. Once you complete bankruptcy, you are free of most of your debt that existed prior to filing bankruptcy, giving you a fresh start.

When faced with the threat of garnishment, it is important to act quickly before the situation worsens. If you find yourself in this situation, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can recommend the best way to get you out of your financial difficulties.

Keywords: wage garnishment, bankruptcy