George Simons | December 02, 2022
Summary: Has a creditor begun tapping your wages to pay back your old debts? Learn how to fight a wage garnishment and how to deal with your debts.
Losing your hard-earned income to a debt collector is very stressful and can significantly change your life. This is unfortunate, especially if you barely make enough to support yourself, let alone your family. However, you can still stop a debt collector from garnishing your wages without outrightly filing for bankruptcy.
This article discusses several ways to fight a wage garnishment order.
Wage garnishment is a debt collection procedure where a court-issued order is used to retain part of your income directly from your employer. The retained amount of money is then sent to the debt collector as a part of your payment for the outstanding debt until the debt is cleared or otherwise resolved. Some examples of debts that are commonly collected through these methods include child support, student loans, and consumer debts.
The debt collector obtains a wage garnishment order from the court after either winning a debt collection case against you or a default judgment (when you fail to respond to the lawsuit). Depending on state laws and the creditor, your employer will be required to comply with the order, effected within 5 to 30 days of notice.
First of all, you need to understand how much of your wage can be garnished. The creditor can't garnish more than either 25% of your net pay or the amount by which your net pay exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage. Additionally, the creditor can't garnish money in your bank account without winning a judgment against you and obtaining a different order known as a bank levy.
With that cleared, here are the several ways to prevent wage garnishment from being applied:
Now would be the best time to approach the debt collector to negotiate a repayment plan that wouldn't leave you struggling to keep up with your financial obligations. Most states require that the creditor send you one last warning letter referred to as a demand letter before beginning the wage garnishment. You can use that chance to express your interest in negotiations while responding to the letter.
If you're lucky to be granted an audience, let them know what your financial situation is like and request to work out a repayment plan. However, this method isn't always guaranteed, especially if the past recollection efforts by the debt collector were unsuccessful. That's why it's always a good idea to respond to the creditor's collection efforts to avoid future frustrations.
You and your employer will receive a copy of the garnishment order and notice from the creditor. The notice will also have attached instructions on contesting the order in court within a specific period.
Typically, you can object to the garnishment order with valid reasons within five days of being notified. Some of the common reasons for the objection include:
However, the reasons allowed for challenging the garnishment order differ among states. Therefore, you'll need to consult an attorney or the county court to understand the specific options available.
Some types of wages are protected from garnishment, and creditors aren't allowed to collect their debts from them.
You'll need to file a claim of exemption with the same court that issued the garnishment order to protect these types of income.
Once you challenge or object to the garnishment order, you'll be notified of a court hearing which you should attend. If the judge validates your objection and rules in your favor, you'll have successfully stopped the wage garnishment.
But if you fail to attend the hearing, the objection may be overruled, and the order will stand. However, you can still try to negotiate the debt with the creditor after the hearing.
A Credit Counselling Service can help you reach an agreement with your creditors and stop a garnishment order. In addition, the CCS makes it easier for you to pay off the debt by negotiating for lower interest rates, smaller monthly payments, among other options.
Filing for bankruptcy may be a better option if you struggle with more than one debt and several lawsuits have been filed against you. However, if you consider this option, you should weigh all the pros and cons of filing for bankruptcy.
Once you have filed your bankruptcy, the wage garnishment will be stopped. The bankruptcy court will notify the creditor that you have protection under the automatic stay and that the garnishment will be suspended shortly after.
Additionally, if the debt being garnished is dischargeable, such as a credit card debt, it'll be permanently deleted during the bankruptcy process.
However, some types of garnishments aren't protected under the automatic stay when you file for bankruptcy. A good example is child support and alimony, which are immune to filing for bankruptcy.
A wage garnishment order shouldn't be the end of the road for you. All these options work successfully for different kinds of situations. However, some of these situations may require a little help from an experienced attorney, especially because different states have varying regulations on wage garnishments.
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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.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.