A reader earns only $11,000 a year, but she's being garnished $300 a month.

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Question: I just received a letter stating my student loan that has been in default is to be offset. I am working. I am also in arrears for child support, which is garnished. I barely make $11,000 a year and I have $300 garnished each month for my arrears.

My question is: Can the government garnish my wages at the same time as my arrears are being garnished? Or do they wait until my arrears are paid off? If they do that, I won’t have anything left to live on!

— Angie in Texas

Steve Rhode answers…

You are living through a tremendously stressful situation, Angie. I wish I could wave a wand and make that pressure vanish. What I can offer you is good information and a plan forward.

1. Look into an offset

An offset is typically a tax refund intercept, unless you’re also getting federal benefits like Social Security. The tax refund intercept is easy to deal with — just don’t get a tax refund. You should adjust your withholding, if any, to get more money in your pocket each month and not in a refund check to be intercepted.

2. Payment plan

Now that’s a short-term solution. For more of a long-term solution on the federal loans, you can get into a $0 per month payment plan that will keep you out of default. In fact, I just recently answered a reader question that dealt with this.

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I’m not an attorney. You’d need to speak to an attorney licensed in Texas for specific legal advice, but it appears in Texas you can have up to a wage garnishment that’s up to 25 percent of your disposable income — but not more than 30 times the minimum wage.

If you did get a federal student loan wage garnishment, it would come in the form of a letter and be called an “Administrative Wage Garnishment.” Open it. The letter will instruct you how to appeal the garnishment and most likely get it suspended.

3. Modification

Texas will allow you to modify your mandatory child support garnishment if you can demonstrate the garnishment doesn’t allow you sufficient income to live on. To get the garnishment modified, you’d need to talk to the court or a licensed attorney in Texas.

Thank you for letting me help you find a way forward, Angie.

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Article last modified on September 25, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Can The Government Garnish My Wages Till I’m Broke? - AMP.