Boring Details

and fine print

Wage Garnishment Schizophrenia

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When you are looking down the barrel of a gun, do you pause to wonder if it is a .40 caliber or a .45 caliber gun that’s pointed at your head? Likely not.

That is the challenge of technical legal writing in a world full of non-lawyers. In the legal world the distinction between an administrative wage garnishment and a judicial wage garnishment is of critical importance, but in the non-legal world the difference is not so clear or easy to appreciate. The person most likely to be researching wage garnishment law on the internet is the person who is actually facing the headache of a wage garnishment on payday. If a big chunk of your paycheck suddenly disappears, the specific legal justification for taking your hard-earned money may not be the first question that pops up.

I’d guess the question might be, “What can I do about this wage garnishment?”

This is where the difference between a judicial wage garnishment and an administrative wage garnishment becomes very important. Judicial garnishments are used to collect some types of debts with one set of legal rules and procedures. Administrative garnishments are used to collect different types of debts using completely different rules and procedures. All debts that can be collected by means of administrative wage garnishment can also be collected by judicial wage garnishment, but the reverse is not true. Many types of debts can be collected by judicial wage garnishment but not administratively.

That, believe it or not, is an over-simplification.

Judicial wage garnishments are different from one state to the next. Garnishment in Florida is very different from garnishment in Texas. Federal courts generally use state garnishment law, except in Admiralty and maritime cases.  The rules and legal procedures that control administrative wage garnishments are different depending upon the type of debt being collected and the agency doing the collection. The wage garnishment rules that govern the collection of student loans from the Department of Eduction are different from the rules used to collect guaranteed student loans, and both are different from the rules for collecting private non-insured student loans, except when they are the same. Collecting student loans by means of wage garnishment is very different from collecting child support through a wage garnishment. If the IRS uses wage garnishment to collect a tax debt, that too is a totally different breed of cat.

It’s complex and I totally understand that you may be confused. I’m doing what I can to help.


Written by Tom Fox

February 26, 2014 at 7:25 am

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