Understanding the rules of garnishment in Ohio

Garnishment is a process that many fear. However, this fear is misplaced, as it is usually completely avoidable with bankruptcy.

If you find yourself unable to pay your bills, you may face the threat of wage garnishment. A wage garnishment is a court order directing your employer to withhold a percentage of your wages for the benefit of a creditor.

How garnishment works in Ohio

Like most court orders, wage garnishment is not something that can happen without your prior knowledge in most cases. In order to obtain the order, a creditor must sue you in court for the debt and win a judgment against you (except in cases of delinquent child support, student loans or income taxes). Once the judgment has been granted, the creditor can ask the court to allow garnishment of your wages. Since most garnishment cases are preceded by a lawsuit, you should have significant notice and time to do something about it.

Under Ohio law, a creditor seeking to garnish your wages may not take your entire paycheck. The maximum amount that may be deducted from each paycheck is 25 percent of your net take home (what is left after paying taxes and other deductions). If you are paying child support, even less may be taken from your paycheck.

Although your paycheck is the primary target for garnishment efforts, sometimes creditors may look to other assets, such as your bank account. Ohio law does not allow the proceeds of the following to be garnished:

• Disability benefits

• Insurance proceeds

• Social Security

• Unemployment compensation

• Pensions (up to $54,000)

• Workers' compensation benefits

Take action when faced with garnishment

As mentioned earlier, you will often know well in advance when you face the threat of garnishment. Fortunately, you may have time to avoid the process entirely. One way to do this is to contact your creditor and work out a payment plan in lieu of garnishment. This tactic does not always work, however, as your creditor may not be willing to work with you. They are not legally obligated to do so, even if the terms are reasonable.

In such cases, bankruptcy can be a logical choice, especially if you cannot afford to pay the debt at issue. Once you file bankruptcy, all collection efforts - including garnishments - are immediately halted. Once you complete the bankruptcy process, you are free of most of your pre-bankruptcy debts and can start again without the threat of garnishment.

If you are facing garnishment, filing bankruptcy may or may not be the best way to proceed, depending on your unique situation. The experienced attorneys at The Rose Law Office can evaluate your circumstances and recommend the best way to deal with your unmanageable debts.