The basics of wage garnishment in South Carolina

As a South Carolina resident, you may have heard of the concept of having your wages garnished. Wage garnishment is a process some creditors use to force you to pay them back when you fall in arrears on your debts. During this process, a court orders your employer to withhold a certain portion of your paycheck. The portion of your paycheck withheld is sent to your creditors to be applied towards your debt. Since this is a common debt collection process, it is important to understand the basic rules of it, should you find yourself in this situation.

Garnishment generally prohibited

South Carolina is unique in that it has tight restrictions on wage garnishment. In general, South Carolina law prohibits most private parties from garnishing your wages for consumer debt. As a result, most creditors cannot seek garnishment of your wages for credit card debts, purchases of goods on store credit, cash advances and other forms of consumer debt.

However, this restriction on wage garnishment does not mean that creditors cannot collect debts against South Carolina residents. Instead of wage garnishment, creditors can employ other tactics including garnishment of non-wage income, writs of execution and liens.

However, there are exceptions

Although there are tight rules regarding wage garnishment in South Carolina, the law does not protect against all forms of wage garnishment. There are three commonly encountered instances where your wages can be garnished without a court judgment:

· Child support. Garnishment of wages for overdue child support is allowable under South Carolina and federal law. Under federal law, up to 50 percent of your disposable earnings can be taken if you are currently supporting a spouse or child that is the subject of the child support order. If you are not, up to 60 percent of your disposable earnings can be taken. "Disposable earnings" are what is left over in your paycheck after your employer has deducted taxes and other necessary expenses.

· Student loans. If you are in arrears on your federal student loans, the Department of Education can administratively garnish your wages. Specifically, up to 15 percent of your disposable income can be taken. However, in no instance may more than 30 times the minimum wage be taken.

· Tax debt. Both state and federal governments may garnish your wages for unpaid taxes. The amount that can be taken from each paycheck depends on your deduction rate and number of dependents you have.

Have you received threats of garnishment? See an attorney

If a creditor threatens you with wage garnishment for debts you cannot repay, it is vital to speak to an experienced bankruptcy attorney. An attorney can listen to your situation, outline viable options and recommend one that will adequately address your debt problems. Additionally, if garnishment for the debt in question is not permitted by South Carolina law, an attorney can work to protect your rights against this type of behavior guaranteed by law .