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Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Melissa Lyken | December 06, 2023

Legal Expert, Paralegal
Melissa Lyken, BS

Melissa Lyken is a senior paralegal and legal-finance content writer with over eight years of professional legal and business experience and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: Even if your wages are being garnished, there is still hope. If you get sued for a debt use SoloSuit to respond in 15 minutes and prevent wage garnishment.

Did you receive notice that a portion of your earnings is going to be garnished soon? If so, we understand that you are probably feeling a range of emotions. The last thing you want is for someone else to reach their hand into your wallet and take your hard-earned money. Yes, they give you notice, but it still feels intrusive, and the thought of someone taking your money without your permission can make you feel like you are losing control and security. Worry not. We want to help you protect your wallet and give you a few steps on how you can stop wage garnishment from happening.

Why Is This Happening?

Garnishment happens as a result of unpaid debt or outstanding money owed to an individual or creditor, including past-due child support. You receive a Writ of Garnishment when a Judge orders that the creditor take or "garnish" a percentage of your wages until you resolve the outstanding debt. This amount can be up to 25% of your income! Essentially, your creditor will keep their hand in your wallet until you've completely paid the debt off. You might be saving for retirement, a family trip, or you may be living paycheck to paycheck, and this might set you back big time. Unfortunately, these folks don't care about your current circumstances or the hard times that may have fallen on you. So here are a few steps you can take to fight back and protect your wallet.

What Can I Do to Stop Garnishment?

Here are a few options you can take to fight back and protect your wallet.

File Your Answer to Avoid Default Judgement

Once you receive a Writ of Garnishment, the clock starts ticking for you to respond. You will usually have 30 days to respond unless your Writ of Garnishment says otherwise. The last thing you want to do is ignore the Garnishment and hope it goes away. When a person does not respond by the deadline set in the Summons, the court often enters a Default Judgment. Default Judgment essentially means you lose, and the creditor or Plaintiff wins by default because you didn't show up or respond. When you file an Answer, you respond to the allegations the Plaintiff made in their filing. Some states like Virginia allow you to file a Garnishee Answer, a form specifically for this issue.

Filing an Answer does not have to be a complicated process. Your Answer helps you avoid getting your wages garnished because you didn't file anything to stop it. SoloSuit can help you generate and file your Answer with the court saving you the hassle of doing it independently.

File a Claim of Exemption to Stop Wage Garnishment

One of the most significant steps you can take to stop wage garnishment is to file a Claim of Exemption, or in some cases, this may be a Motion for Exemption. This step is crucial, so you must do so almost immediately. Wage garnishment happens nearly as quickly as you can say the words out loud. Filing the Exemption form is one of the first steps you want to take because you will often only have between 5-10 days to do so in many states. Some courts will set a hearing date when they receive your exemption form, and others will ask you if you would like to request a hearing. In either circumstance, the hearing may be an excellent opportunity for you to plead your case so ensure that you can appear that day.

Like Florida, some states make it easy for you to file a Claim of Exemption or Motion for Exemption. For example, some courts provide you with a form called a Claim of Exemption and Request for Hearing. All you would need to do is complete the form by selecting the relevant reasons why the court shouldn't allow the creditor to garnish your wages. Filing a Claim of Exemption is a great way to stop Garnishment before it happens and enable you to get your voice heard. Here are a few common exemptions that you may fall under:

  • Social Security Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Benefits
  • Public Assistance
  • Worker's Compensation
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Veterans' Benefits
  • Disability Income
  • Child Support
  • Payments under retirement, pension, and annuity plans
  • Alimony, support, or separate maintenance

Not sure if you received one of these forms? People often miss essential pages like this after going through the initial shock of finding out their wages will be garnished. Now that you are thinking clearly, read through each page of the documents you received and see if the court provided you with a Claim of Exemption. If you did not receive a Claim of Exemption form, you might be able to request this form from the Clerk of Court, it may be an easily accessible form on your court's website, or in some cases, you may receive the form from your bank or employer. You can stop the Garnishment by responding and letting the court know that your wages qualify to be exempt from Garnishment.

Pay Off the Debt to Settle the Lawsuit

This option is not always likely or feasible after you've received a Writ of Garnishment. If your creditor has reached out to you and made debt settlement proposals already, they may not be willing to settle. However, if your creditor is willing to work with you, you can stop a wage garnishment by paying the debt off. If you plan on doing this step, it is still essential that you follow through with the steps listed above while working on this process. If the creditor is willing to work with you, they may allow you to resolve the debt by paying a fraction of the initial debt owed. Another common option is they may allow you to make consistent monthly payments until you pay off the debt entirely. Whatever you arrange, make sure it is in writing, and you do everything to ensure that the Garnishment will cease as a result.

Not Our Favorite Option, but it Might be the Option for You - Filing for Bankruptcy.

Another way you can stop a wage garnishment from happening is by filing for Bankruptcy. It is vital that you speak with a Bankruptcy professional if you decide to go this route as Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies may or may not apply to the type of debt you have or may work a bit differently. If you are considering going this route due to a large amount of debt, consider speaking with a debt collection attorney first to see if they can help you. Here at SoloSuit, we partner with debt collection attorneys so that you have the option to have your Answer reviewed by a professional to give you added peace of mind.

Wage Garnishment can leave you feeling powerless, but we hope these tips help you fight back and keep more money in your wallet for your personal goals.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

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