Chloe Meltzer | December 02, 2022
Summary: Did you just find out that your wages are being garnished? Were you told it's too late to do anything about it? Find out if you can stop a garnishment once it starts.
If you are faced with a wage garnishment, then bankruptcy might seem like it is your only way out. This is a thought process shared by many, but it is not the truth. There are a few things you can do in an attempt to prevent a creditor from garnishing your wages.
If a creditor has obtained a judgment against you, then they typically will send you one last letter before they begin the wage garnishment. This is called a "demand letter," and is required by law in most states. If you get a demand letter from your creditor, then you should not ignore it.
This is because many creditors prefer to get voluntary payments rather than go through expensive paperwork and the collection process that goes along with garnishment. If you can use this time to set up a payment plan, this is your best bet to stop the garnishment process.
Some states actually offer protections against wage garnishment. If you live in the state of Ohio, then you can request a court-appointed trustee. This person will be the one to whom you make payments. This person will then distribute what you have paid them, to your creditors. It makes it a very simple process and protects you from having your wages garnished.
Another example is in the state of California. If you wish, you can make a claim of exemption. This can either reduce the amount or completely eliminate the garnishment for anyone showing economic hardship specifically needing more income to support themselves or your family.
If you are not in one of these two states, then you should contact the clerk of the county court to see what is available in the state you reside in.
There are a variety of consumer credit counseling services (CCS) that might be able to help you stop a garnishment. This is not the same thing as a debt repair company but, rather, a CCS is a non-profit agency.
Using this service can help you to negotiate an agreement and pay it off over a time period. Since your creditor will agree to participate in this program with you, while participating in one of these programs, your creditors cannot send for your wages to be garnished.
If you receive a demand letter and ignore it, then the garnishment will most likely go through. Instead, attempt to object to the garnishment in an official and legal notice. Request a hearing with the court, and use one of the following objections if it pertains to you:
Federal law indicates that a creditor may only garnish the following amounts:
If you are being garnished for child support or alimony, then the laws are a bit different. Federal up to 50% or 60% of your disposable earnings can be garnished. When it comes to student loan debts and IRS taxes, the same can be said. Each state has different laws as well and could be much more strict. If you believe that the proposed amount to be garnished from your wages is higher than what federal and state law allow, consider objecting to the garnishment.
If the creditor did not follow the garnishment procedure, then there are grounds to terminate the order. This is essentially a mistake on behalf of the creditor, and possibly even the court. One example of this would be if the creditor failed to give you timely notice of the garnishment.
If you already paid the judgment or even paid partially through a method other than cash, you need to object. It is essential to do this because you do not want the creditor to get more than what they legally deserve.
After filing an objection you need to attend the hearing. You can attempt to negotiate at the hearing. Even if the court overrules your objection, it is important to go. Should the court deny your objection, this is your opportunity to possibly stop the garnishment and negotiate a payment plan.
Although you might have been sued for debt and had a judgment placed against you, you always have the opportunity to challenge this. Different reasons for challenging a judgment might include not being properly served with the complaint and legal papers.
It is never too late to stop the garnishment. You may not always be able to dispute the judgment at the garnishment hearing, so it is important to attempt to vacate the judgment separately. In some cases, you can try posting a bond and attending a different hearing. It is a long process but it may be your only hope. It needs to be done quickly and as soon as you are aware it is possible as there is a limited amount of time to do it.
Creditors and debt collectors do not want to put more effort than they have to into your case. Even after a garnishment has started, there is always the opportunity to try to negotiate a resolution. Putting pressure and trying to negotiate provides you a chance to stop the garnishment.
It is always a good idea to explain your circumstances if they happen to change. Whether you have more money to pay off some of the judgment with a large sum, and stop the garnishment, or settle the remaining amount. Your last case scenario should be to file for bankruptcy. Although this will stop most garnishments immediately, it will follow you for the rest of your life and make it difficult to rebuild your credit.
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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.