Wage garnishment

Wage Garnishment

Generally wage garnishment starts with a lawsuit where a creditor (the person who is owed money) sues a debtor (the person who owes the money to the creditor).  Then the court sets a hearing on the lawsuit.  If the debtor fails to appear at the hearing or loses at hearing, the court enters a judgment order, saying that the debtor owes the creditor a certain amount of money.

If the debtor doesn’t pay the money voluntarily, then the creditor can file a motion naming the debtor’s employer as “Garnishee Defendant” and asking the court to set another hearing to issue a Garnishment Order against the employer.  A Garnishment Order can require the employer to withhold up to 25% of the debtor’s take-home pay and send it to the court for payment of the judgment.[1]

Wage garnishment can stretch a person’s budget past its limits and make it difficult to pay for the necessities of life, including groceries, car payments, and rent or mortgage payments.  This can have a snowball effect resulting in car repossession, eviction, or mortgage foreclosure, and can severely affect the person’s ability to support themselves and their loved ones.

How Do I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Three possible options to stop wage garnishment are Motion to Lift Default Judgment, Debt Settlement, and Bankruptcy.

  • Motion to Lift Default Judgment:  If a person’s wages are garnished based on a false or invalid debt without that person first receiving proper notice and opportunity to appear at a court hearing on the matter, then the person may file a Motion to Lift Default Judgment.  If the motion is successful, the court will find that the debt is not valid and will terminate the garnishment.
  • Debt settlement:  In some situations, debtor can negotiate an agreement with a creditor, whereby the creditor will agree to accept an amount of money less than the total amount owed, if the debtor can arrange to pay this money in a lump sum, often with the help of friends or relatives.
  • Bankruptcy: Another option is to file for bankruptcy, which stops most wage garnishments through an automatic bankruptcy stay.  The Automatic Stay means that most creditors and courts that have notice of the bankruptcy have to immediately stop trying to collect from the person who filed for bankruptcy (the Debtor).[2]

How I Help Clients Stop Wage Garnishments

I help clients carefully evaluate their options and stops wage garnishments by filing Motions to Lift Default Judgment, negotiating debt settlements, and filing for bankruptcy to obtain a bankruptcy stay.  If you are in need of affordable representation to stop a wage garnishment, please call my office to set up an appointment.

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[1]  Garnishment for child support is not limited to the 25% threshold.

[2]  The automatic stay does not stop income withholding orders to pay child support, as child support receives special treatment in bankruptcy.