If you are having your wages garnished, you are undoubtedly wondering if garnishments expire. After all, no one enjoys having a portion of their earnings withheld each pay period, regardless of whether they are expecting it or not. The problem is, the rules on wage garnishment and how long it lasts can be murky at best, and downright confusing at worst.
Here, we’ll try to clear the air on that confusion. Hopefully, we can help you better understand the process you’re dealing with and settle matters as quickly as possible, all while following all necessary rules and regulations along the way.
So, Do Garnishments Expire?
Before we go any further, let’s answer the question you’re here to answer: Do garnishments expire? That answer is yes, but the date at which your garnishment will expire – or be settled, in many cases – could be difficult to determine. As such, we’ll need to dive a little deeper into why garnishments happen, what type of garnishment you are dealing with, and how that information will impact the answer you’re looking for.
Are You in It for the Long Haul?
In many cases, a creditor may have ten or even as many as twenty years to collect a judgment against a debtor. With that in mind, it’s no wonder so many wage garnishments take so long. With legal mandates on the maximum amount that they can deduct from your earnings each paycheck, it can take months, years, or even decades for them to recover the entire amount!
However, this doesn’t mean that you are definitely doomed to deal with the garnishment for decades. In fact, there are plenty of ways that you can sidestep this lengthy timeline – and plenty of reasons why a wage garnishment might happen over a much short period of time. Let’s examine some of these to help you make your garnishment as brief as possible.
Termination of Employment
It may be very tempting to quit your job if you are experiencing wage garnishment. This is the initial route many debtors take since the termination of the employment being garnished will result in a stoppage of the recovery efforts. However, it’s not the quick fix that it may seem and may actually complicate and lengthen your repayment process.
During any period in which you are not employed, you will likely accrue interest on the amount you owe. If you owe child support, alimony, or other payments, you will be assigned a legal minimum that you will be held responsible for in the event of loss of your income, and remaining unemployed will not negate that responsibility.
Because of all this, quitting your job to avoid paying your garnished amount may result in even greater debt – and an even longer repayment responsibility. Since your creditor can simply pursue repayment from any new job you may move on to, it’s best just to keep periods of unemployment short during your garnishment.
In some states, there may be a legal limit of time during which your creditors can garnish your wages. This is true in places like Utah, where garnishment can only continue for one year, and Missouri, where garnishment can only last 60-90 total days. However, creditors can typically just file for another garnishment if the debt is not settled, and can continue to do this for as long as they need to settle that debt entirely.
Importantly, Florida has no such time limit, so this is not a factor for those residing and working in the state.
Of course, paying off the total amount you owe is one good way to end your garnishments. In cases where a finite, specified amount is owed, full repayment of this amount will result in the satisfaction of the debt – and release from the garnishment. In these cases, that will be stated in the document outlining the garnishment order, notifying both the creditor and the debtor of this expectation.
If you have satisfied your entire outstanding debt, your creditor will be required to file a release of garnishment document. If they fail to do so, you can legally object to the continuation of garnishment, which should push them to do so. It is important to ensure that you really have settled your entire outstanding debt amount, though, since a mistake here can mean your time and effort in objecting to an ongoing garnishment would be wasted.
In many cases, a person dealing with wage garnishment ends up in even deeper financial trouble. As such, a common response is to consider filing for bankruptcy. In most cases, this will stop the garnishment of your wages, since creditors are no longer entitled to collect against you. This may not be the case in your scenario, though, especially if you owe child support, alimony, certain types of student loan debt, or some other debts.
Do You Have Any Options if Expiration Isn’t One of Them?
It is important to note that just because you have had a certain amount withheld from your earnings doesn’t mean that it is the correct amount. The reason the objection option exists is that human error can lead to incorrect garnishment, especially in the face of Florida state’s exemptions. These include things like the head of household exemption, exemptions for those making less than 30 times the minimum wage per pay period, and more. It is important to keep a record of what is being withheld from your earnings and bring this amount to the attention of an attorney if you feel that you are being incorrectly charged.
Still have questions regarding wage garnishment? Contact Van Horn Law Group. The firm understands that these judgments happen to good people – and how to help you navigate the process. Whether you’ve just started having your wages garnished or are wondering after many months if garnishments expire, they have the knowledge to answer your questions and help you make the process smoother and easier.