Can Divorce Result In Wage Garnishment?

Divorce is one of the most costly endeavors a person can embark upon — and maybe it should be, since couples take a vow to keep one another in sickness and in health for the rest of their lives. But should it cost on average more than $10,000? There are many factors to consider when thinking about this figure. Divorce can result in alimony or child support payments in addition to an equitable division of assets. How do people pay for it all? Can a judge mandate someone’s wages be garnished?

There are two reasons a former spouse’s wages might be garnished. First, the former spouse refuses to pay for child support or alimony. These are court-mandated payments, and refusing to pay them is technically a crime. Someone can even be fined a greater sum — or put in jail.

Second, the former spouse simply fails to pay for alimony or child support. This usually means a person simply can’t make the payments without drastic changes to quality of life, but a judge can still mandate wage garnishment. 

It should be noted that an employer can not terminate an employee for garnishment proceedings for a single debt. This right is provided by the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). But an employee can be fired if wages are garnished for more than one debt. The CCPA protects an individual from having more than 50 to 60 percent of their wages garnished to pay debts.

Not sure whether your wages are being garnished legally? Bob Matteucci has defended clients at his firm Matteucci Family Law for years. You can set up a private meeting or free consultation to discuss the details of your case and find out how to protect yourself from wage garnishment.

Most wage garnishments will stop when a person files for bankruptcy, but state exemption laws are in effect. What other exemptions exist? Usually, certain types of income cannot be garnished by law. These include social security, disability, retirement, child support, or alimony (the latter two being the subject of our discussion, but it’s possible you could be receiving child support and alimony from one former spouse only to have to pay both to another).

If you qualify for an exemption, you can file a claim in the court that mandated your wages be garnished in the first place. You’ll need your name, the name of the creditor (in this case your former spouse), and case number. The judge won’t rule in your favor without reason, so be sure to provide copious details about your financial situation.

In general, it is much more difficult to protect wages from garnishment after divorce, and you should be prepared to pay the full amount. But if child support or alimony are destroying your quality of life, it’s worth the attempt. Keep in mind that if you can pay child support or alimony, you should. If a judge finds out that you withheld important information to protect your own assets, you could be in legal hot water.

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