Having your wages garnished is not just alarming and infuriating, but it’s essentially counter-productive because it impedes your ability to pay down your debts. Like almost everyone, you depend on your salary to maintain your standard of living and support your family. Having a creditor cut into that cash lifeline puts your financial health and future at risk. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you can do something that wage garnishing creditors categorically don’t want you to do: stop them ASAP. Below are the steps to follow.
Identify who is garnishing your wages, why, and for how much.
You have every right to know exactly who is garnishing your wages, and why they’ve taken such a dramatic action. If you can’t piece this story together from the documents you have in your possession, contact your payroll department and ask them for details, or speak with your bank. If you didn’t receive a summons and complaint outlining the creditor’s allegations against you, then you can identify who was served by contacting the court where your case was filed (typically the Superior or District Court in the county where you live).
And while you’re digging into the details, confirm precisely how much is being garnished per paycheck. Keep in mind that each state has its own laws governing how much can be garnished. For example, in Missouri creditors may garnish the lesser of the following:
- 25 percent of a debtor’s disposable earnings, or
- 10 percent of a debtor’s disposable earnings if they are the head of a hold, or
- The amount by which a debtor’s weekly disposable earning exceeds 30x the Federal hourly minimum wage (currently $7.25/hour).
Find and hire a qualified attorney.
The web can be a source of valuable information (as you’re demonstrating right now by reading this article). But it’s not a substitute for proper legal counsel, which can only be provided by an attorney. Find one in your area that has deep experience in bankruptcy filings, and learn about your options — specifically regarding filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Remember that time is of the essence! The wage garnishment will not stop otherwise. What’s more, if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection within 90 days of the wage garnishment commencing, you may be allowed to recover them.
File for bankruptcy.
If your attorney advises you to file for bankruptcy and you agree with this recommendation, then as noted above, do so without delay by providing your attorney with the required documentation (including pay stubs, tax returns, debt collection notices, etc.). You’ll receive a case number. Provide this to your bank or payroll department (usually by fax) and the wage garnishment will immediately stop. If you’re eligible to reclaim any garnished wages in the 90 days preceding your filing, then your attorney will prepare and submit the request on your behalf.
Take the requisite credit counseling course.
As a result of the bankruptcy filing, you’ll need to complete a requisite credit counseling course that is approved by the Department of Justice (you’ll find a nationwide list here). The course can be taken online. Get started on this as soon as possible.
A Final Word
Having your wages garnished doesn’t mean that you’re powerless, and must resign yourself to whatever your creditors decide is in their best interest. You have legal rights and protections, and you should assume that your creditors don’t want you to know what these are. All they want and care about is their money, whereas what you want and care about is your overall financial health and future.
As such, if your wages are being garnished — or if a creditor(s) is threatening to do so — then don’t panic. Get your paperwork together, gather the appropriate information, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney, and make an informed decision that is best for YOU.
To learn more about your options and what the road ahead might look like, contact the Law Office Charles H. Huber for your free, no-obligation consultation.