Wage garnishment in California is a shocking and traumatic event. All of a sudden, 25% of your income is attached and you never see it (up to 50% in some custody claim cases). And it all starts when a creditor has filed a Earnings Withholding Order to collect on a debt and garnish wage.. Suddenly, someone who was just barely getting by, treading water, is now missing one-fourth of their take-home pay and you need to stop wage garnishment.
There are a couple of things someone who has had their wages garnished can do. One of them is to file a Claim of Exemption form. This is not an easy way to go, and you’ll probably want an attorney to assist you. The standard is fairly high, but from time to time, these allow you to decrease the amount they withhold.
One other thing you can do is hire a Santa Clarita bankruptcy attorney to file bankruptcy on your behalf. Immediately, the creditor whose debt is being paid by the wage garnishment will be put on notice and have to stop this garnish wage and attempt to collect on a debt. You can file bankruptcy to stop the wage garnishment in California.
Bankruptcy can stop and remove the piranha on your paycheck.
One of the more common ways people come to us is when they realize that their wages are being garnished. That startling usually is just the kick-in-the-pants of motivation that is needed to take care of something that has been put off for far too long.
How the Debt Got to a Garnishment
People think that only taxes can turn into a wage garnishing situation. That’s not true. Any judgment holder — someone that has sued you for something and won — can garnish your wages if they choose to.
This means that any credit card debt , any tax debt, an old landlord that didn’t get paid, a small claims court matter that you lost as judgment, or even a major lawsuit about a car accident or something else. People are often surprised that a credit card debt can turn into a wage garnishment. It’s true. All that has to happen is that the credit card company needs to decide to sue you, which they’ll easily win (you promised to pay and then you didn’t pay). They take that judgement to the Sheriff and ask them to take money from your paycheck. It’s a done deal.
The Emotions Over Debt Are No Longer a Barrier
Certainly, it is understandable to put off confronting something as murky as a debt problem. There are many emotions swirling around the entire topic. These range from feelings of guilt regarding the over-spending to inadequacy about one’s talents as a money manager or income earner.
Of course, it’s usually topped off by the frustration and anxiety brought on by telemarketers and the ultimate: helplessness over a situation that is regarded as having no perfect solution. As a result, most people do what many of us do when an unpleasant and emotion-filled situation is calling out for our attention: we put it off for another day and move on to something that is less trying.
MORE: See our article on stopping a wage garnishment.
Only when circumstances come to a head do they demand an immediate response. A wage garnishment is something that takes credit card debt or a judgment not just out of the deep freeze, but throws it on the front burner. Not many people can survive on 25% removed from their take-home pay.
What to Expect With a When they Garnish your Wages
So, what happens once some creditor or collection agency has decided they want to collect from you? Well, first, they have to sue you in a lawsuit. You may or may not know about this going on, depending on how much you’ve moved around, or how low of a profile you’ve kept. They win the lawsuit, since you promised to pay, and you haven’t paid the creditor yet. With this new victory — a judgment — they can now get your money. This can include but is not limited to seizing your bank accounts, intercepting your tax refund, and of course, cutting into your paycheck . . . the garnishment of your wages.
Once they’ve found out where you work and decided to garnish you, they have to take their judgment against you to the local police department or sheriff. This unit then contacts your employer and tells them that they must deduct one-fourth of your pay income (up to half if the debt is over a support issue) and hand it over. This will continue until the judgment is paid in full or you break the process which is now in motion.
Stopping the Wage Garnishment: Options
There are a number of ways to stop the garnishing of your wages. First, you can quit your job. This is very effective for the short-term, but doesn’t really solve the problem. Of course, you are no longer giving them one-quarter of your pay check, but on the other hand, you are now missing the other 75% of it. Even if you quickly get another job, it’s just a matter of time until the collecting creditor finds you and the garnish process starts all over again.
Another possible solution is to pay the judgment. This takes a phone call to the creditor and offer to give them the money they want. You can maybe negotiate, but this entire approach is complicated by two major factors: 1) emotions are very high when you call the people who’ve been haunting you, often attorneys; and 2) they want a huge lump sum payment, usually more than you’ll have available. You can hire an attorney to negotiate the debt, but again, this is helpful only if you have the funds to really settle the matter once and for all.
Next, you can consider just allowing the garnishment… garnish. That is if you can somehow live with this pain. If you can, this is a way to pay your debt and avoid bankruptcy.
Finally, bankruptcy can stop and remove the piranha on your paycheck. Bankruptcy will stop their taking of your pay checks. This may be helpful if you have other debts that may try the same route, or your credit is not otherwise pristine and perfect. If your credit is already shot, filing bankruptcy is a quick, powerful solution that is cheaper than trying to settle the judgment for the lump sum they’ll demand, saving you thousands of dollars.
What to Expect: Bankruptcy to Stop the Wage Garnishing
The first thing to understand is the concept of the “automatic stay” in US Bankruptcy law. It is the legal mechanism that kicks in the moment your bankruptcy petition and paperwork is filed with the bankruptcy court. As of that moment, no creditor to whom you owe money can contact you Also at that moment, no one can collect. They cannot garnish your checks and take your money.
The time to act and take action on this is now. Delay has got you to where you are. Let an expert in these matters take over from here.
But beware: if you declare bankruptcy, it has its own risks.
But, how will they know what you’ve done? The people who are garnishing will need to find out about your filing bankruptcy. Normally, this would take over a week. You will need to let your Human Resources or Payroll Department know about your bankruptcy filing.
You can mail or fax a something to prove you’ve filed bankruptcy. This will include the filing stamp is on the page as proof of its filing. While you’re at it, let the creditor’s attorney know (he or she will be on the Earnings Withholding Order paperwork that started the garnishment). Finally, it would be wise to provide a copy of your petition as proof of filing to the local law enforcement who also will be on the EWO.
What Happens Next?
Once you have let HR and the others (above) know, you will go back to getting your full pay check. The case then proceeds as a usual Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy would.
There is even a possibility that you can recover the funds that were garnished.
But hurry. Every moment you delay is risking another paycheck that gets shorted, funds going to “them” which you can be using for groceries and food. You’re going to need to start getting money together for your bankruptcy. You cannot afford to lose 25% of your pay check.
Stop the wage garnishment now.