Wage Garnishment in South Carolina (or not?)
Wage garnishment is extremely limited in South Carolina, though debt collectors will attempt to convince you otherwise. Still, there are exceptions you need to understand.
While almost all other states have wage garnishment statutes, South Carolina has taken a different path. In South Carolina private parties cannot garnish wages for consumer debts. S.C. Code Ann. § 37-5-104.
Note, however, I said “private parties.” The IRS and State Department of Revenue may garnish wages. So if you’re delinquent on your taxes, keep this is in mind.
There are two other notable exceptions: government-backed student loans and child support orders. I’ve said it before: “Owing student loans is like owing the mob.” And the mob gets to garnish your wages. Also, the family court may order child support to be taken out of your wages–a garnishment of sorts. And while we no longer have debtors’ prisons, we do for those who violate family court orders. This makes sense in some cases, but you can also be jailed for failing to pay you ex-spouse’s Visa and MasterCard bill. And that makes no sense for a whole variety of reasons.
You should also know that if a creditor obtains a judgment and writ of garnishment against you in another state, the creditor can garnish your wages even after you move to South Carolina.
Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code
Lying about the law, a consumer’s rights and obligations, or possible consequences of default are all violations of the both federal and state law. Put simply, neither the creditor nor the debt collector can lie about what it can do to collect the debt. S.C. Code Ann. § 37-5-108(c).
What should you do?
- If you’re a South Carolina resident and have been wrongfully threatened with wage garnishment, seek legal counsel.
- Make good notes and keep any evidence so you can turn over this information to your lawyer.
- NEVER erase phone messages from debt collectors when they make illegal threats. Keep all these communications.
- Try to make the slimeball–err, the debt collector–repeat all these communications. Act dumb and ask them to explain this to you again because you are concerned about your wages and your job.
More information from the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs
Here’s a great video from the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs discussing wage garnishment in South Carolina. You should also take a look at that agency’s website, which has great information on a variety of topics for consumers.