Friday, October 3, 2014

Wage Garnishments and how Bankruptcy Can Stop Them

One of the worst feelings for my clients is when a creditor gets a hold of a portion of their wages.

Below are answers to the most common questions I get about garnishments:

When can a creditor or collector garnish my wages?
First, a creditor must have a judgment against you. This means they have sued you in state court and "won". Many times creditors win by default, as a debtor fails to appear or answer a lawsuit.  Once a creditor obtains a judgment, they just need to draft papers called a "writ of garnishment" and send to your employer. Your employer is required to withhold a portion of your wages by law and send to the creditor at that point.

How much can be garnished?
In Oregon, a creditor who obtains a valid judgment against a debtor can garnish up to 25% of a person's net wages!  This means that if you normally bring home $3,000 per month and got hit with a garnishment, your income would drop to $2,250. I don't know about you, but this would be devastating to almost anyone's budget.

How long will a garnishment last?
A garnishment will continue until the debt is paid in full, or for 90 days. After 90 days, the creditor may renew the writ of garnishment and continue garnishing until they are paid off.

How can I stop a garnishment?
Once a garnishment is in place the only way to stop it is to pay off the debt, settle with the creditor, or file bankruptcy.  A chapter 7 and a chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop a garnishment in it's tracks. As soon as the case is filed you will want to have your attorney send a notice of filing to your employer and they will be required to stop the wage deduction immediately.

If I file bankruptcy, can I get any of the garnished funds back?
Sometimes, yes. In certain cases we can recover amounts garnished within the 90 days leading up to the bankruptcy. Several factors may affect your ability to recover funds, so you will want to discuss this with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

If you are facing a wage garnishment that you would like to be stopped, call us today to discuss your options. We always offer free initial consultations 503-352-3690.