If you fail to make debt payments, your creditor may take legal action by suing you and seeking a court judgment. Once this occurs, the creditor can ask the court to garnish your bank account or wages to reimburse the debt.
However, a wage garnishment can worsen an already difficult situation if you’re already struggling to meet your financial obligations. The good news is that there are measures you can take to prevent garnishment from causing havoc in your financial circumstances.
What is Wage Garnishment?
Debt collectors may resort to garnishment if you’re unable to repay a debt. Upon court approval, the creditor can ask for a portion of your wages or bank account funds to settle the debt. These enforced payments can worsen your financial difficulties and make it challenging to meet essential expenses.
Therefore, it’s crucial to engage with your creditor before they initiate a lawsuit to prevent the garnishment. If you’ve already reached that point, however, there are potential alternatives you can explore to eliminate the garnishment.
Understanding Garnishment Process
Wage garnishment regulations differ across states, allowing a limited timeframe for you to raise objections. The duration varies based on your state and the debt’s nature, with the window sometimes as brief as five days.
Nevertheless, the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) safeguards all consumers. This legislation prevents unfair practices by third-party debt collectors in their debt collection efforts. It shields you against harassment, unsolicited calls during odd hours, and disclosing your debt to anybody other than your spouse.
How Wage Garnishment Works
As said earlier, creditors resort to garnishment as a final measure to recover their owed funds. Before this, they usually explore alternative options such as negotiations, engaging collection agencies, or structured loan repayment plans. If these attempts prove unsuccessful, the creditor may seek court approval to proceed with garnishment.
After the creditor initiates the garnishment request, the court must approve it and forward it to your employer for implementation and compliance. Subsequently, your employer must subtract the specified amount from your paycheck and send it to the creditor. Failure to comply with a garnishment order can hold your employer liable for the debt’s repayment.
It is worth noting that once the garnishment process commences, it will persist until the debt is wholly settled or until legal measures are undertaken to stop it.
5 Ways for Stopping Wage Garnishment
When faced with a garnishment order, taking immediate action is crucial. Assessing potential legal or financial alternatives to halt the garnishment process is valuable. Here is how you can stop the garnishment:
Reimburse the Debt Fully
Paying off the debt is a widely used approach to end garnishment. By doing so, you can instantly halt the garnishment and find reassurance that your employer will no longer deduct your paycheck. However, before pursuing this option, knowing the repayment terms and assessing any potential financial consequences is advisable.
Thus, look closely at your expenses to determine if you can afford to make a single payment to settle the debt. Paying off the debt may be the optimal resolution to cease garnishment.
Challenge the Judgment in a Court
Suppose the garnishment is the result of a judgment. In that case, it might be possible to dispute that judgment in a court. Depending on the available evidence and the circumstances, engaging a garnishment attorney could assist you in this matter. Challenging the judgment can be intricate and time-consuming, but it could be your most viable option if you possess a valid legal argument.
A court hearing will be essential to present your case. If your challenge is successful, the court may modify or completely overturn the judgment. In such a scenario, it can potentially cease the garnishment process. However, it is vital to remember that you must establish your case’s merit per the laws of your state of residence.
File for Bankruptcy
Although filing for bankruptcy carries a social stigma, it can be a powerful strategy for halting garnishment and reclaiming financial control. Once you initiate bankruptcy proceedings, the court will issue an order that immediately stops all garnishments and other debt collection activities. The personal bankruptcy that you can apply for includes:
Chapter 7 Fresh Start: Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers a straightforward approach to eliminate debts swiftly and provide complete relief. This plan eliminates unsecured debts, such as credit card bills, medical expenses, judgments, personal loans, garnishments, and other similar obligations.
Chapter 13 Reorganization Plan: Chapter 13 bankruptcy aims to halt creditor actions and establish manageable repayment terms to help you regain financial stability. Here is where working with a garnishment lawyer comes into play, as they will help you develop a balanced budget based on your unique income and debt obligations.
Agree on a Good Payment Plan
If your present financial circumstances make it challenging to repay the debt completely, negotiating a more feasible reimbursement plan with your creditor is possible. This negotiation process may involve discussions regarding decreased monthly payments, reduced interest rates, extended loan terms, or even a lump-sum settlement. Successful negotiation can halt the garnishment and lessen the debt burden.
Having a well-defined plan can prevent further collections or legal actions while decreasing the overall interest you need to pay. It’s important to remember that creditors may be open to working with you if they perceive it as beneficial to them, so don’t hesitate to engage in negotiations.
File an Exemption Claim
If you believe that a portion of your wages should be protected against garnishment, it is crucial to submit an exemption claim. This claim allows you to assert your eligibility for exemption based on specific factors, such as being the head of a household, having dependents, or maintaining a low income. Moreover, if another creditor is currently garnishing your wages, you can file a claim to limit the amount deducted.
Is Hiring a Wage Garnishment Attorney Worth It?
Hiring a wage garnishment attorney can be a wise decision when facing the possibility of wage garnishment. With their expertise in this area of law, attorneys can provide valuable guidance, protect your rights, and navigate the legal procedures involved. They can alleviate stress, advocate, and help you explore options to challenge or negotiate the garnishment.