One of the most common questions I get repeatedly from consumers is how do I stop a wage garnishment immediately? I had the chance to discuss this topic on KKNW 1150am radio with host James Gore which you can listen too above. The highlights of the conversation and the steps you can take to protect yourself can be found below.
Wage garnishments seems to always hit at the worst time and when a consumer least expects it. In Washington state wage and bank garnishment is allowed under RCW 6.27.005. It is limited to greater of 25% of disposable earnings or thirty times the federal minimum wage. Unfortunately it is human nature for consumers to wait until the very last minute or after they have already been garnished to take action in order to stop a wage garnishment. Don’t be one of those people! Be proactive about your situation and seek out an attorney who can stop garnishments immediately or go over alternative options if applicable. Here are the steps that you need to take in order to stop a wage garnishment.
Step 1. Figure out who is garnishing you and for what. Many consumers report that they are being garnished and they have no idea why. If you have a payroll department at work you should get in touch with them to learn about the details. You should also ask your payroll department when the next payroll submission is taking place so you know how much time you have to stop the wage garnishment. If your bank account was garnished then you should talk to your bank to identify the creditor taking the garnishment action. If you are being garnished that means that somebody has obtained a judgment against you. In most cases, the creditor would have been required to file a lawsuit and serve you with a summons and complaint outlining the allegations against you. On occasion consumers report not being served with documents. If this is the case then you can obtain a record of your case and identify who was served with the summons and complaint from the court where your case was filed. This should be easily identified on the documents given to your employer or your bank along with a case number. In Washington state most debt collection cases are filed in the Superior or District Court in the county in which you reside.
Step 2. Talk to an Attorney. Now that you know who is suing you and for what you can figure out what to do about the situation. Contacting a bankruptcy/debt settlement attorney should be your logical next step. A bankruptcy attorney can inform you of your options as they relate to your situation as every case is different. Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop your wage garnishment immediately. In fact if you file your Ch. 7 bankruptcy case within 90 days of when you were garnished you may be able to get the funds back and keep them if you are able to exempt them in your case. Exempting funds means that you are able to protect them.
Step 3. Hire Attorney. If you determine that you need legal assistance to stop your wage garnishment your attorney can either help you negotiate a settlement with your creditor or stop a wage garnishment immediately by assisting you with filing a bankruptcy case if you are a good candidate. If you decide to file a bankruptcy case you should immediately take your required credit counseling course which you can do over the phone or on the computer for about $15-$25. Additionally you will have to pay your legal fee’s and court costs prior to your case being filed, however the court will accept payments on the filing fee (it’s $335 for ch. 7 or $310 for Ch. 13), with a minimum of $100 being paid toward your court fee. After your fees are paid you should gather up all the docs you attorney has asked you for. These include your last 6 months of pay stubs, last 2 years of tax returns, a completed questionnaire that was provided to you, and supply any third party debt collector notices that might not show up on a credit report. After this information is received your attorney can file your case. If you are not able to gather all the docs in time, your attorney can file an emergency case with just your name, address and social security number. You would then be required to file the remaining docs at a later date.
Step 4. Provide Notice. Once your bankruptcy case is filed you will receive a case number immediately and a notice of automatic stay can be faxed to your payroll department or bank to stop any future garnishments from happening if the notice is received prior your payroll submission. Remember if you miss the deadline to provide notice, you may still be able to get any wages garnished back if the garnishment happened with 90 days of filing.
Step 5. Get Garnished Funds Back. If your funds were garnished within 90 days of your bankruptcy filing and the funds are exempt, your attorney can request that the party who garnished your wages refund the garnishment. This is possible because any monies garnished in the last ninety days prior to your case filing are exempt and property belonging to the bankruptcy estate under 11 U.S.C. §522. Further any transfers made ninety days prior to the filing of the bankruptcy are avoidable under 11 U.S.C. §547.
These steps provide a basic outline of the actions needed to stop a wage garnishment immediately. Your attorney can further advise you of the bankruptcy process and let you know if you are a good candidate to file bankruptcy and other options if applicable to deal with your debt collector. If your wages are being garnished or you are about to be garnished and you live in Washington State, give Symmes Law Group a call at 206-682-7975 to stop your wage garnishment immediately or use our contact form to tell us about your case.
* This article was updated on August 22, 2016 *