Understanding the wage garnishment process in Mississippi

Understanding how wage garnishment works in Mississippi is key to avoiding the process.

If, for whatever reason, you fall behind on your debts, one of the means that creditors have of obtaining payment from you is wage garnishment. Garnishment is an order from a court that requires your employer to withhold a certain percentage of your wages from your paycheck in order to be applied toward your debt. As garnishment is a commonly used tool against employed debtors, it is important to understand its limitations and how it can be avoided.

When can garnishment occur?

Under Mississippi law, in most cases, your wages cannot be garnished out of the blue without you knowing about it. In order to garnish your wages, your creditor must first sue you in court and obtain a judgment against you. Once the creditor has the judgment, he or she may seek an order of garnishment.

However, there are limited cases where creditors do not first have to obtain a judgment. Under the law, if you owe income taxes, child support or student loans, creditors holding these debts may garnish your wages without first taking you to court.

Limitations on garnishment

If your wages are being garnished, the law limits how much may be garnished at a time, so you have enough left over for living expenses. Under Mississippi law, for each workweek, creditors may garnish only 25 percent of your disposable earnings or the amount that your wages exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. Under the law, "disposable earnings" means the portion of your wages left over after your employer has made deductions for taxes and other expenses required by law.

Under the law, if more than one creditor is garnishing your wages, the maximum amount that may be taken from your paycheck is 25 percent.

In addition, Mississippi law also provides debtors with a grace period once a garnishment order has been obtained. Under the law, creditors are prohibited from garnishing your wages for 30 days after you receive notice of the order.

Stopping garnishment

Garnishment is a headache for both you and your employer. Although the law protects you from losing your job if your wages are being garnished by one creditor, the protection does not extend to more than one. Fortunately, garnishment can be avoided. Some creditors may allow you to negotiate a payment plan with them in lieu of garnishing your wages. However, if you do not have the funds available to make the payments (or if the creditor refuses to work with you), bankruptcy is often the best option.

On the day that it is filed, bankruptcy stops garnishment and other debt collection processes. During the bankruptcy process, most of your debts, including the debts that brought the garnishment order, are discharged. Once discharged, you are no longer under any obligation to repay them. At the conclusion of bankruptcy, you can begin a new financial life again, free of most of your former debts.

If you are facing the threat of garnishment for a debt, bankruptcy may or may not be the best course of action, depending on your situation. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can advise you on the best way to proceed.

Keywords: bankruptcy, wage garnishment