Stop Garnishments

The key to surviving a garnishment is to act quickly.

When a creditor garnishes you, then can take up to 25% of each paycheck.  This is incredibly hard on families.  Most people can’t survive financially if they lose 25% of their paycheck. A garnishment starts when you a creditor gets a judgment against you.  The creditor gets a court order requiring your employer to turn over up to 25% of your paycheck every pay period, until the creditor is paid in full.  Not only is this hard financially, many people worry what their employer will think and how they will react to getting a court order with their name on it. Understanding the garnishment process A creditor has to follow certain steps to get a garnishment order against you. A garnishment is the result of a lawsuit. In order to get a garnishment order, the creditor must file a lawsuit against you.

  • The law requires the creditor to give you notice of the lawsuit.  This means that you must be served with a summons and complaint.
  • If you file bankruptcy now, then the lawsuit will stop and the debt will be eligible for the discharge.

If you fail to respond to the lawsuit, then you are in default.  Once you are in default, the creditor can get a default judgment.

  • If you decide to respond to the lawsuit, then the case has to move forward.  It is usually less expensive and less time consuming to file bankruptcy and wipe the debt out than it is  to try and go to trial on the validity of the debt.
  • If you have a counter-claim for abusive lending practices or fraud by the creditor, that claim can be preserved and you can sue the creditor through the bankruptcy.
  • It can cost thousands of dollars to defend a lawsuit, and there is not guarantee that you will defeat the creditor.  If you file bankruptcy, then the debt is simply discharged with much less expense and hassle.
  • If you file bankruptcy now, then you can save the time, expense, and uncertainty of defending the lawsuit.

Once the creditor has a judgment against you, the creditor start garnishing you. You will get notice that the creditor intends to garnish you.  The notice will state that the creditor intends to garnish your wages.  At this point, your employer has not been informed of the garnishment.  You will usually have a couple of weeks between getting the notice and the commencement of the garnishment.  Check the notice for a start date.

  • If you file bankruptcy now there is still time to stop the garnishment. In most cases, if you file before the garnishment starts, your employer won’t know that it is taking place.

Now the garnishment starts.  At this point the creditor has done everything necessary to garnish your wages.  If you want to stop the garnishment you have only two options:

  1. Wait out the garnishment, until the creditor is paid.  If you do this, it is likely that your finances will get even worse and it will be even harder to pay your bills.
  2. File bankruptcy.  A bankruptcy stops a garnishment dead in its tracks.  If you file a chapter 7, you will start getting your full paycheck again, your old debts will be discharged, and you can get a fresh start.

How you can protect yourself from a garnishment

Garnishments are stressful.  If you’re being garnished, it means your in financial distress.  Most garnishments are done by collection agencies.  These collection agencies don’t care what effect the garnishment has; they only care about collecting on the debt.  The fact is that if you are being garnished you’ll have much more trouble paying your rent, making car payments, and taking care of yoru family. The other thing to realize is that you aren’t the only person thinking about bankruptcy.

Contact the Law Office of David H. Fuller, a Seattle bankruptcy attorney, for your free consultation.

Return to the Seattle Bankruptcy Attorney homepage.

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