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Can Your Wages Be Garnished Out of State? What to Know About Out-of-State Garnishments


If you are in debt, you may have experienced wage garnishment. A wage garnishment allows a creditor to take part of your paycheck each period to help offset your debt. This situation can be very frustrating, and many people try to find ways around it. However, that can lead to serious issues. It is crucial that you understand what you are dealing with before you try to find a quick fix that will get you out of your garnishment – and potentially into even more legal trouble!

Understanding the Wage Garnishment Process

Before you ask questions about the wage garnishment process, here are a few quick things to know.

Your creditors will have to receive a legal judgment against you to pursue repayment of debt through the wage garnishment process. After that happens, they will be given a document called a writ of judgment. This writ of judgment is then presented to your employer or employers, who have a clearly specified amount of time to respond to the order. After that, they will be expected to begin withholding your earnings and submitting them.

It can be very upsetting to have your employer learn of your financial troubles and get directly involved this way. In most states, though, it is technically illegal for them to terminate your employment for this reason. However, most employers also reserve the right to terminate employees for other, lesser reasons, leading many employees with wage garnishment orders against them to feel anxious during the entire debt repayment process. It is not a fun situation to be in!

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Now that you understand wage garnishment a little bit better, here is how it may vary by the state you live in – which will be important later in this post!

The Variance of Wage Garnishment Law by State

Like many other legal topics, each state in the U.S. has its own regulations and rules that dictate how and how much creditors can collect by way of wage garnishment. This can make understanding the process as it applies to you a little complicated, so it is essential to understand the rules within your state.

One example is states that prohibit the collection of debts that are considered consumer debts. Some of these include:

  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania

Some of these states – like South Carolina – prohibit collection on consumer debts through wage garnishment, regardless of what those debts are for or how they were acquired.

What happens if you think your creditors are not following these laws properly? In those cases, you may have cause to push back against your creditor legally. However, doing this should happen only with the guidance of a bankruptcy attorney or other legal professional. Sidestepping any laws regarding debt can put you in an even worse situation, so do so only with expert advice.

Are Out-of-State Garnishments Legal?

Many people mistakenly believe that out-of-state garnishments are strictly impossible. This may be why some people pick up and move during the garnishment process and believe that this will keep them from being responsible for the amount that they owe via these garnishments.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. While out-of-state garnishments are a little bit tricky, there are ways for creditors to collect on them. Knowing this will keep you from being caught completely off guard by these garnishments happening to you.

How Do Out-of-State Garnishments Work?

To go after your debt when you are no longer in the state where that debt was created, your creditors must first domesticate it. That means that they must legally relocate that debt into the state where you are working, residing, and paying taxes. To do this, they must be recognized as a valid creditor in the new state, which requires action through the civil courts of that state.

Exactly how this happens is largely dependent on that new state’s civil procedure. In general, though, your creditor must obtain what is called an exemplified copy of your debt documentation. This simply means that the authenticity of that debt – and their legal right to pursue it – will have to be verified by the court in the original state and the new state.

Once this process happens, your wage garnishment will be considered valid in the new state and will proceed as normal. If there is any hiccup in the process along the way, it may delay this judgment from happening – but it will not stop it. The only thing that might halt the process, at least temporarily, is if your new state is one that has not adopted the law that requires states to comply with these rules. Those states include:

  • North Carolina
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts

Technically, there are still plenty of loopholes and exceptions regarding garnishment that can complicate the process and confuse those involved. For example, many states allow employers to decide if they will comply with wage garnishment, especially if that garnishment was originally ordered in another state. They see that other state’s garnishment order as not being applicable to employers in their own state, meaning that those employers are within their rights not to comply with the order. The debtor is still responsible for their debt, though, meaning the whole situation is murky and confusing.

Even worse, some states have laws that seem to conflict with their own orders. In North Carolina, for example, there are laws that essentially disallow wage garnishment entirely. However, that same state allows employers to decide whether they will comply with wage garnishment orders, including those from other states. That means that moving to North Carolina to escape wage garnishment may not be the quick legal fix that debtors are hoping for.

If you still have questions regarding out-of-state garnishments or anything related to wage garnishment, you can find the answers to those questions by contacting an attorney. The Team at the Van horn Law Group has that experience – and a passion for helping clients understanding and navigate their financial situations. To learn more, give them a call today.