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Halting Wage Garnishment in California

wage garnishment.jpgSometimes, it is very easy or tempting to ignore paying bills, such as taxes, student loans or even a court judgment entered against you. If you continue to ignore your debts for a significant period of time, creditors or debt collectors will take the next step and hit you where it hurts most-your wallet, and move to garnish your wages and/or bank account(s). However, garnishment of your wages or bank account will not occur until the court intervenes and issues a judgment requiring your employer to withhold wages or portions of your bank account(s) to pay back outstanding debts.

California law identifies the situations when wage garnishment is appropriate. Generally, wage garnishment is defined as a court issued order requiring your employer to withhold portions of your pay check-up to 25 percent and sending it directly to the creditor to whom you owe money, until that debt is finally paid off. The California Department of Industrial Relations also identifies three categories of when an employer can garnish your wages, and they include:

  • When your employer is required under state or federal law (or by court order);
  • When the deduction of wages is expressly authorized by the employee to cover benefit plan contributions; or
  • Deductions authorized by collective bargaining agreements.

Prior to Filing for Bankruptcy, You Have Several Options

If you are facing wage garnishment, bankruptcy might not be your only option.

  • First, you should reach out to the creditor and see if you can work out a payment plan. Obviously, the sooner this is done the better. Once they obtain an order from the court garnishing your wages, they might be less inclined to work with you;
  • Second, if the wage garnishment already began, you can make a claim of exemption, in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the wage garnishment in its entirety. However, you need to show economic hardship and that the wages you generate are necessary to support your family;
  • Third, you could seek out a consumer credit counseling service that may be able to assist you in reaching an agreement with the creditor;
  • Fourth, you can fight the entry of the wage garnishment order in court, where you could argue the creditor did not follow proper procedure, is attempting to garnish more than permitted under the law or that the creditor was already paid (if applicable); and
  • Finally, among other things, you could file for bankruptcy, where the automatic stay will prohibit the garnishment of your wages until it is lifted, or discharge the debt the creditors are attempting to recover from you. When you file for bankruptcy, the automatic stay prohibits most collection activities, although it does not apply to child support or alimony obligations.

Consult an Attorney

If you are confronted with wage garnishment issues, you should contact an experienced San Jose bankruptcy attorney who will be able to advise you of your options, negotiate with creditors, protect your rights and provide you with solutions to your debt problems.

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