How garnishment works in Tennessee
Garnishment in Tennessee works similarly to how it does in other states in that it is not something that can happen without your prior knowledge in the majority of cases. Before your wages may be garnished, your creditors must sue you in court, obtain a judgment, and ask the court to allow garnishment of your wages to satisfy the judgment. Although your creditors must follow this process in most cases, there are exceptions. If you are behind on debts such as student loans, taxes and child support, your creditors may not need to sue you in court before garnishing your wages.
In order to ensure that you have enough money to live on, Tennessee law sets limits on how much of your paycheck can be taken. Under the law, the maximum amount your creditors may take from each paycheck is limited to the larger of:
- One-fourth of your weekly disposable earnings. “Disposable earnings” are defined as the amount left over after your employer has deducted the necessary expenses such as taxes; or
- The amount by which your weekly paycheck exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage.
In cases where multiple creditors are seeking to garnish your wages, the maximum that may be taken from your paycheck is a total of 25 percent of your disposable weekly earnings, regardless of the number of creditors seeking garnishment. If you have dependent children, the law allows you to keep an additional $2.50 per week per child to assist with their support.
When faced with garnishment, many people attempt to avoid garnishment by working out a payment plan with their creditors. Although this may be successful sometimes, creditors are not legally required to negotiate with you. In such cases, bankruptcy is often the best way to stop the garnishment process.
When you file bankruptcy, the automatic stay immediately halts any current or pending garnishment actions against you. Once you complete the bankruptcy process, most of your debts that were the subject of the garnishment proceedings are wiped away. Once this has occurred, you are forever free of your debts, as your creditors cannot legally contact you or attempt to collect them again.
If you are in a situation where you are behind on your debts, you can give yourself the best chance of success by acting early before the situation gets worse and your options become fewer. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can walk you through the available debt relief options and recommend the best way for you to eliminate your financial problems.