Most business owners don’t like the idea of garnishing a customer’s wages because they owe them money. However, it may end up being the best option.
The law recognizes that wage garnishment can be financially debilitating. That’s why it has to be ordered by a court unless the creditor in question is the federal government – for example, for back taxes or unpaid student loan debt.
Filing a debt collection suit
The first step in garnishing someone’s wages is to file a debt collection lawsuit or complaint that includes specifics about the nature of the debt. Generally, debtors have 30 days to respond. If the debtor doesn’t respond, the court will typically enter a “default judgment.”
Once you obtain a favorable judgment, you can then seek a wage garnishment order via a writ of execution. You can also take additional legal action to get payment. A wage garnishment order gives employers the legal authorization they need to withhold earnings beginning at least 10 days after they’ve received the writ (depending on when the debtor’s next paycheck is generated).
Wage garnishment has its limits
The employee is empowered challenge the garnishment order for a short window of time. If the garnishment proceeds, the levying officer (in Florida, generally the local sheriff or marshal) is in charge of getting the garnished wages to the creditor. It’s important to know that if you’re dealing with a debtor who also owes debts like child or spousal support, taxes or repayment for elder or dependent financial abuse, your debt is going to be classified as a lower priority than those higher-priority debts.
There are, of course, limits on how much of a person’s paycheck can be garnished as well as exemptions under federal and state law. Therefore, unless you’re dealing with someone who has a fair amount of disposable income and who just isn’t willing to part with it to pay what they owe you, you may not get much out of a wage garnishment action.
Seeking legal guidance if you need to take collection action on a debt can help you determine the most effective way to go about accomplishing that aim that given the individual debtor’s situation. Making this effort can also save you time, stress and potential legal issues.