There’s no two ways about it – a wage garnishment creates a major financial setback for anyone. Earlier this year, the State of Georgia even amended their laws on them, to make the garnishment process more consumer-friendly. The thought of someone else dipping their hands into your paycheck and taking a chunk of your hard-earned money is distressing and difficult to imagine. Most households operate on a tight budget, and can’t afford to lose hundreds of dollars out of their wages every time they get paid. Maybe you’re currently being garnished and want to know if there is anything you can do about it, or maybe you’re wondering if there’s a way to prevent an impending garnishment from happening. This post will explore garnishments in more detail and will briefly outline options for potential garnishments or garnishments that are already happening.
What is a garnishment?
Generally speaking, a garnishment is a court order that allows money or property to be seized in order to satisfy a debt. Typically, this is taken in the form of an employer being served with a copy of the court order (sometimes known as a Writ of Garnishment), and subsequently directed to withhold a certain percentage of the employee’s paycheck in order to repay the debt. In most cases, creditors or debt collectors are required to provide you with notice of the garnishment before it occurs, and there is also a legal limit as to how much money creditors can take. However, debts owed on student loans, domestic support obligations, and taxes have different rules when it comes to garnishments, and you might not receive notice, or be protected by legal limits applicable to other debts. In data published earlier this year, it was revealed that debt collectors hired by the Department of Education garnished more than $176 million in wages in 2015 in order to collect on defaulted student loan repayments. The debt collection industry does not pull any punches when it comes to getting paid. If you think you are about to be garnished, or are being garnished, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
How long does it take for someone to garnish me?
Once you are served with a lawsuit, it can take as little as 45 days for a garnishment to take effect. First, a creditor or debt collector must sue you, and then obtain a Judgment against you for the balance of the debt owed. Unfortunately, our office comes across a large quantity of Default Judgments – when a lawsuit goes unanswered or ignored by the defendant, the plaintiff (the person or entity that is suing) automatically wins the case, and is awarded a judgment by default. The creditor then has the means to serve notice on your employer or your bank, ordering them to start withholding money. Not all garnishments have a turn-around of 45 days – but it can happen very quickly, and no matter how much you may have been preparing yourself for it, it is always a shock to see your income so drastically slashed.
What can I do to prevent a garnishment from happening?
The best option is to try and get on a voluntary payment with your creditors or debt collectors as early as possible to avoid 25% of your wages being garnished. That way, you have more control over the frequency and amounts of the payments, and you can avoid the negative impact of a garnishment. If you have already been served with a lawsuit, you should talk to a lawyer about your options – they might be able to negotiate a lump sum settlement for you, or affordable payments over time.
What if I am just about to be, or am already being, garnished?
If you are already being garnished, or have had a Judgment entered against you, your options are limited. It is very difficult to negotiate on a debt when creditors are already getting repaid with a cut of your wages or funds from your bank account. However, the situation is not completely without hope. In some cases, a skilled attorney may be able to negotiate a reduction in the garnishment amount, use any influence they may have to request a payment plan, or they can assist you in deciding if you need to file for bankruptcy.
Is it possible to retrieve any money that was taken in a garnishment?
If you are absolutely certain that the debt is not yours, or you believe that a garnishment was unfairly attached to your wages or bank accounts, you should make an appointment to speak with a lawyer and determine what your options are. In the majority of cases, garnishment is a legal route for creditors to enforce collection upon a debt, and for most people it works as a hefty, involuntary repayment plan. If you are affected by any of the above, or would like to get some information on wage garnishments, don’t hesitate to call our office and schedule a meeting with one of attorneys today. Call: 602-265-3000.