March 10, 2021
Summary: Worried about garnishment because of past due debts? Learn how to stop a garnishment if you receive a judgment against you.
If you are brought to court for debt by a creditor or debt collector, there are a few courses of action that might take place. If you do not respond to the debt or the judge finds you responsible for it, then they will give the creditor or debt collector a judgment against you. Judgments allow the creditor to take further action against you. This may come in the form of a wage garnishment or a bank levy.
Garnishments are court orders that form your employer or financial institution to offer funds from your wages, bank accounts, or other assets. The garnished funds will then be sent directly to the creditor or debt collector to pay your debts. To avoid garnishment, there are a few steps you can take.
You can object to wage garnishment or bank levy if it prevents you from covering your basic needs. This might include rent, medical expenses, or food, or if you believe that the judgment is an error. Certain income is also exempt from being garnished. If you want to attempt to stop garnishments, then this will need to be done quickly. This is why you must understand the steps to take in which to stop a garnishment to avoid losing money from your paycheck or bank account.
Regulations regarding wage garnishment vary from state to state. You have a short window to object to wage garnishment. It will depend on your state and the type of debt that you owe, but it may be as short as five days.
Despite this, all consumers are protected by the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law protects you from unfair practices in an attempt to collect a debt from a third-party debt collector. This means you may not be harassed, called at odd hours of the day, or have your debt spoken about to anyone other than your spouse.
Objecting to the garnishment is all about proving the legitimacy of the judgment. This means that if you believe you have legal grounds to challenge the garnishment, then you can pursue it.
The paperwork that you received notifying you of the judgment should provide a few pieces of information:
The length of time that you have before the garnishment begins is your time limit for challenging the judgment. Otherwise, you will begin to have your wages or bank account garnished. This can range anywhere from five business days or as long as a month.
Bank levies are a form of non-wage garnishment where the money is simply removed from your account. Typically these will usually become garnished within 10 days. After this time you can object to the garnishment, but you will lose anything that has already been removed from your account. If you don't receive a document with information on where to send your objection, then you will need to contact the clerk of the court that issued the garnishment.
Detailing why you are objecting is one of the most crucial aspects of your case. Especially if your income comes from exempt sources such as Social Security. There are a variety of other reasons why you might object as well, but you will need to back up your claim with paperwork proving it.
If you cannot afford the basic necessities due to wage garnishment then this is a legitimate reason for objection. Despite this, there are different paths to follow based on the type of debt you have.
Debt such as from credit cards or medical bills is considered consumer debt. If this is the type of debt that led to the garnishment or bank levy, then you must not only fill out paperwork to challenge the judgment, but you most likely need to attend a hearing.
You will need to fill out a few different forms such as the “claim of exemption” and “financial statement” forms. These will outline your case and offer information regarding your household income and expenses. Be sure to go to the court and fill these out as soon as you can, to avoid garnishment.
When it comes to defaulting on student loans you are typically given a 30-day written notice of the garnishment. During this time you may request hardship assistance, modify your student loan payment plan, or make a written objection. The written objection is similar to how you would approach consumer debt. You may also be able to set up an alternative payment plan with your lender to avoid garnishment.
Each state has its own garnishment laws, but there are federal restrictions on what income may be garnished. This includes:
There is also a limit on how much may be garnished. Each state sets the maximum amount, but federal law always supersedes state laws. Federal law allows no more than 25 percent of your income (after insurance and taxes) to be garnished. If you owe state or federal taxes, bankruptcy settlements, student loan debt, or child/alimony support this amount increases. Your garnishment will continue until the debt is paid off, or until a specified date.
Whether you are objecting to garnishment or attempting to change the terms of your garnishment, either one can put you in a better position for your financial future. Through this process, you should be able to build good financial habits, in hopes to avoid this happening again in the future. If you end up not being eligible for a claim of exemption but still find the garnishment unmanageable, then you can consider filing bankruptcy. It is important to note that this should always be a last resort.
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Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.
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Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.