Avoiding Wage Garnishment
Wage garnishment is a tool used by creditors to collect any unpaid debts through the court system. If you have unsecured debts, like credit cards or medical bills, these creditors are limited as to their ability to collect these debts if you refuse. The most powerful remedy available to them is to file suit against you. But because there are court and attorney’s fees associated with a lawsuit, it is a last resort for most creditors. However, if they have exhausted every other means of collection, creditors will eventually file a lawsuit against you if you owe them money.
A lawsuit can only be used to garnish your wages if the creditor actually gets a judgment against you. Once they do get a judgment against you, they can use the state’s garnishment laws to have funds withheld by your employer to satisfy the judgment. Upon receipt by an employer of a wage garnishment notice, a portion of your paycheck will be sent to the creditor before you ever see your paycheck. The amount withheld by your employer varies from state to state. In Georgia, judgment creditors can have up to 25% of your disposable earnings withheld and paid over to them to satisfy their judgment. Typically only one creditor can lay claim to your wages at a single time. While disheartening, this is not an uncommon problem for millions of Americans every year. However, you do have a couple of options to protect yourself for wage garnishment
OPEN YOUR MAIL!
First and foremost, do NOT ignore creditors. Many people overcome by financial stress, simply put their head in the sand and hope everything goes away. Guess what? It doesn’t. Read your mail and know where you stand with each of your creditors. In many cases, you can prevent creditors from going as far as wage garnishment by simply communicating with them. Generally, they have turned to the legal system because they have not received payment and are not able to get into contact with you.
ANSWER ANY LAWSUITS!
If for one reason or another you did not open your mail then you MUST respond to any legal action. Generally, in order to sue you, the creditor must have you served with a copy of the lawsuit. In Georgia, sheriff’s deputies are utilized to serve lawsuits against individuals. If you are served by a sheriff’s deputy or anybody else for that matter, immediately contact an attorney. If you don’t do anything and enough time passes, the court will enter a default judgment against you. Once a creditor has a judgment against you, they can begin the garnishment process. .
STAY OFF FACEBOOK!
If you owe any creditor, you should be very cautious about the information that you put on social media or otherwise on the internet. Creditors are actively trolling social media to find out where you live, where you work and whether you have disposable income sufficient to pay your debts. If you post a pic of your new boat, creditors may decide that you have enough money to pay their debt and they can pull state license records to find out where you live so that they can serve you with a lawsuit. So maybe don’t share that information with the world!
LET’S MAKE A DEAL!
You might attempt to negotiate with a creditor and possibly settle for a lesser amount than you owe. However, there are a few caveats to this. First, any settlement offer should be made before your creditor gets a judgment against you. Once they get a judgment, you have a weaker bargaining position. Two, you have to find an individual with the creditor company who can make an executive decision to settle. Generally, the person answering the phone has no authority to settle. You need to go full Karen and climb up the ladder. If you find the right person, you need to be able to offer them a significant lump sum to settle right away. On the other hand, if you are proposing a repayment plan, you should still put some up-front money on the table at the outset, otherwise, the lender probably will not bite.
CALL THE LAW OFFICES OF MARK A. BANDY, PC!
If all else fails and you get hit with a wage garnishment, it may be time to consider filing for bankruptcy. But don’t wait! If you do, the wage garnishment will impact your ability to pay your mortgage, rent, utilities and your car payment. Things can snowball fast!