For many people in California and across the United States, the struggle to stop wage garnishment is a very real issue. We all want our wages to stretch to a few luxuries each month and to give us the opportunity to save a bit of money for the future. At the very least, we expect our weekly or monthly wages to cover all of our outgoings for the period. However, when wage garnishment takes effect, this becomes difficult.
So what exactly is going on here; is it possible to make it stop? Wage garnishment occurs when an individual cannot manage the debts they have incurred and the authorities step in on behalf of the creditor. These creditors may be able to acquire a judgment, forcing you to hand over a percentage of your wages each month. The judgment authorizes an automatic payment from your wage packet, which can be up to 25% of net income according to California law. This is a seriously high amount and can be difficult for individuals and families to deal with.
It’s not surprising that many people think they have no place to turn when they experience this kind of problem. After all, an order to garnish wages is legally enforced and is handed down by the courts. Surely there is no way to prevent this and to roll back the damage such an order may have on a family?
Wrong. In fact, it is possible to stop wage garnishment. You may even be able to stop the process immediately and come to a more mutually beneficial situation for both you and for your creditors.
Let’s take a look at this in more detail, and begin getting your life, and your finances, back on track.
Open up a dialogue
Communication, applied in the right way, can make a world of difference in many situations. Conversely, failing to communicate almost always makes things worse. With this in mind, your first action should be to try to open up a dialogue with your creditors and to begin negotiations in this informal manner. You may find that the creditor you assumed to be completely inflexible and unwavering is, in fact, open to communication.
It is always a good idea to avoid legal processes where possible. This saves a great deal of hassle and expense for both sides and also means that your creditor might be more open to dialogue than you first thought.
So, get in touch and start the negotiations. You may be able to set up a payment plan that you can both agree on that will leave you with additional money to use each month, rather than finding yourself at the mercy of a potential 25% garnishment. While it may be difficult to achieve this kind of mutually satisfactory situation, it has worked in some cases and is worth a try.
Of course, you need to get in touch sooner rather than later. It is unlikely that your creditor is going to re-negotiate terms when you already have a garnishment order in force. Act quickly and increase the chances of successfully stopping your wage garnishment.
Consider seeking an exemption
You could save yourself a great deal of hassle, and money, if you can demonstrate that you are eligible for an exemption. This requires you to prove that the money you earn is completely required for taking care of yourself or your family and that no part of your earnings can be considered “disposable”.
To apply for an exemption, first complete the California Claim of Exemption from Wage Garnishment, or a similar document if you live in a different state (please note that not all states offer this possible option). You will then have to complete five straightforward questions that cover your personal details, the earnings you require for you and your family’s use, the earnings you are willing to pay back to your creditor, whether documents should be sent to you or to an attorney, and how often you are paid.
Although the form is fairly detailed, there are other pieces of paperwork you are expected to supply, including a financial statement. The financial statement provides support to any claims you make on the exemption form. For example, you will need to list all of your dependents along with their details. List your monthly income as well as any deductions, any assets in the names of your spouse, yourself or your dependents, regular monthly expenses, the creditors you are required to make payments to, and list any other facts to support the exemption form.
Upon completion, two copies of both documents should be filed with the levying officer and not with the court. It is also advisable to retain copies of each document for your own records.
Decide if you have grounds to dispute the judgement
It could be that you have reason to object to the garnishment order. If this is the case, and the authorities deem your objection to be a solid one, you could find that the garnishment of your wages is stopped immediately, with no further delay or hassle.
A wage garnishment order is a legally binding provision. This means you need a solid reason for objecting to the order; one which is good enough to overturn the initial verdict. To decide if this is the right option for you, take a look at some of the following disputes and see if any of these apply to you.
- The garnishment is too much
Just because a garnishment order is limited to a certain amount, does not mean that sometimes this amount is not exceeded. Take a look at how much is being taken out of your wage packet for each pay period, work out the percentage, and check to see if the amount is legal.
We’ve already established that a wage garnishment order could take as much as 25% of your wages each month. However, this is not quite the end of the story.
In the event that you are being pursued for alimony or child support payments, the garnish could be significantly higher. In these cases, you could find yourself looking at as much as 50% or 60% of earnings after taxes and other deductions are factored in.
You may also find yourself on a different garnishment schedule if you owe money to the IRS or to a student loan provider.
Check that the order falls within the legal provisions for your type of debt. If it doesn’t, you may be able to object and to stop the wage garnishment immediately.
- The wage garnishment was improperly processed
As we know, any order to garnish wages is a binding legal mechanism. This means that due process must be followed at all times, without fail. If any deviation is made from the proper way of doing things, the validity of the order could be cast into doubt.
But what exactly constitutes a failure or a violation here? Well, it is up to the creditor to provide you with a timely warning that such processes are being considered. If you do not receive this warning, or if you do not feel that you received enough notice to comply with the creditor’s demands, you may be able to lodge a violation.
The creditor is also required to serve you with legal papers along with an official, written complaint. The procedure cannot begin if this has not been served. So, if you have not received such documentation, you may be able to do something about the order and stop the wage garnishment.
- An agreement has been reached or the debt has been paid
If wage garnishment continues after an agreement has been reached, or even after the debt has been paid in full or at least partially, the results can be crippling. This means you need to make sure that this is not the case in your situation and you need to act quickly if you think this is happening to you.
Notify the authorities if your wage garnishing is continuing despite the settling of your accounts. They will immediately take action to stop the garnishment of your wages, and either record the debt as paid or record that a new agreement has been set up to the satisfaction of both parties.
Follow up on the dispute
After you lodged your complaint and made your objection to the wage garnishment known, it is important to keep up the pressure. Don’t simply consider the matter complete or out of your hands; do what you can to remain an active participant in the ongoing procedure.
- Being present and active at the objection hearing
Once you have filed your objection, a hearing date will be set. You need to attend this hearing. If you cannot attend, you need to notify the court in advance and provide the reason for your non-attendance. If you fail to attend, and fail to submit an appropriate reason for your absence, you may find that the court simply throws your objection out.
- Being prepared to follow up with legal proceedings
Even if your initial objection is thrown out and rejected, you may still have legal grounds to stop the garnishment. If you feel that justice has not been served, you may be able to open another hearing and follow the relevant legal process to achieve the right result under the law of California and of the United States. There may be a statute of limitations placed on these proceedings, so enlist the help of an attorney and act quickly.
- Being open to further negotiation
Even if the objection hearing does not go your way, you can still use this opportunity to meet with your creditors and potentially continue the negotiations. This provides a chance that the wage garnishing process will be stopped and an agreement can be reached. Bring your legal team and your creditor’s legal team together and discuss your options.
Find out more about the law in your area
Most of our clients are based in the San Diego area and find themselves dealing with the legal provisions of the State of California. As such, the information we provide here relates to these clients and to the legal processes of California.
While similar salary garnishing orders exist across the United States, these are not based upon federal law. Instead, different states have their own legal provisions that they apply within their own jurisdictions.
Before you go ahead and dispute the reductions from your salary, it is important to get to know the legal situation in your own state. Speak to a legal professional who is local to you, and have them explain the different rules and regulations surrounding these rulings in your area. This will help you decide on the best course of action so you can make the next steps you need to make.
Consider bankruptcy as an option
“Bankruptcy” is not a word that most of us want to hear. However, it is also not something to immediately dismiss. Declaring yourself bankrupt does have its advantages and it may leave you in a better situation than getting your salary garnished every pay period.
Bankruptcy is designed to help creditors recoup as much of their money as possible, while also protecting debtors from the full force of debt reclamation. There are, of course, long term repercussions of bankruptcy, and this is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly. However, you will find that the protection you receive could give you the financial breathing space you need to get back on your feet.
Are you struggling with debts that you can’t handle? Are you finding that your wages are being depleted significantly due to garnished pay? These situations are seriously stressful but there is an answer: the team here at Batta Fulkerson. Our team has the skill and expertise you need to fight your case and to help you achieve the results you need. Get in touch with us today to learn more and to begin your journey toward a debt-free life. It starts here.