An experienced wage garnishment lawyer has several tools that may be able to help you with a garnishment order. This article discusses how an attorney can prevent wage garnishments, reduce debts that could lead to wage garnishments, and eliminate existing wage garnishments. Finally, this article examines how a lawyer can help you file bankruptcy.
Written by Lawyer John Coble.
Updated July 12, 2023
If your income is being garnished, you’re probably wondering what you can do to stop this action. An experienced wage garnishment lawyer has several tools that may be able to help you with a garnishment order. This article discusses how an attorney can prevent wage garnishments, reduce debts that could lead to wage garnishments, and eliminate existing wage garnishments. Finally, this article examines how a lawyer can help you file bankruptcy.
A Lawyer Might Be Able to Help You Avoid Garnishments Altogether
If you're sued for defaulting on a debt, an attorney will understand how to defend your case. If your income has an exemption available, a lawyer will block any garnishment of that income. An example of federally exempt income is Social Security benefits. State laws can also exempt income. For example, Florida exempts up to $750.00 weekly for heads of households. Florida also provides a wildcard exemption that can be used to exempt money in a bank account.
Attorneys can help you file your answer to a creditor’s complaint. If you lose in court, a good attorney will know how to reduce or eliminate the amount you owe. A lawyer can review all your agreements and correspondence with the creditor. They will be able to spot fraud, evidence of identity theft, violations of statutes of limitations, and more. A consumer attorney can make sure the creditor has followed important laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA forbids collection tactics that amount to harassment. Most attorneys will offer you a free consultation to determine what they can do to help you.
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A Lawyer Can Help You Sort Through Your Debt Relief Options
Most creditors must get a court judgment before they can garnish your income. The major exception to this rule involves some government creditors, including the IRS and child support agencies. One way to avoid court is to negotiate a debt settlement with the creditor before a case ever gets to trial. It's even better if you reach a settlement before the creditor files a lawsuit. A good attorney will have a feel for the best offer that the creditor will accept.
Even if you lose your case and your income is garnished, a good attorney will make sure the creditor doesn't take more than they can legally take. There are complex laws that protect your rights after a judgment has been entered against you. An example of such a law is 15 U.S. Code §1673(a). This federal law is part of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. It prohibits the creditor from taking more than 25 percent of your disposable earnings or the amount your disposable income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. An attorney can help you calculate the maximum amount of money the creditor can legally garnish.
These options already mentioned are good choices if you have only one or two debts you're behind on. If you have excessive debt from many creditors, it may be best to use the ultimate debt relief tool: bankruptcy.
A Lawyer Can Help You Through the Bankruptcy Process
If bankruptcy is the best solution available to help you manage your debt, a bankruptcy lawyer can help you understand the process. There are two primary types of bankruptcy available to consumers under the Bankruptcy Code. They are Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Either chapter of bankruptcy will immediately stop wage garnishments due to the automatic stay.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a quick process that usually takes 4-6 months. If you have significant nonexempt equity in your property, the bankruptcy trustee may sell some of your nonexempt assets to raise money to pay your creditors. It’s rare that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filer has enough nonexempt equity that the trustee chooses to sell their nonexempt assets. The only thing most bankruptcy filers lose when filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is their debt. Losing debt is a good thing.
Some debts can't be managed via a Chapter 7 bankruptcy but can be dealt with via a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Such debts include car loans and mortgages. Nondischargeable debts, such as many tax debts, can't be managed through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves a 36-60 month payment plan that may be a good option if a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing won't work well for you. If a bankruptcy trustee would likely sell some of your assets in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may want to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. If you have debts that can’t be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may want to file under Chapter 13. If you're behind on your car loan or mortgage, you may want to file under Chapter 13. A bankruptcy attorney can help you decide which chapter of bankruptcy best fits your needs.
Depending on your situation, you may not need to work with an attorney to successfully file for bankruptcy. Upsolve has a free tool you can use to file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy without having to pay an attorney. This tool is only available to you if you are filing a simple, straightforward Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A few examples of cases where Upsolve believes it would be best for you to have an attorney include the following:
You own your home,
You earn more than the median income in your state, or
You have filed a personal injury lawsuit and it's pending now.
Each of these situations requires special expertise from an attorney.
The Upsolve tool cannot be used for Chapter 13 filings because you’ll need an attorney to assist you with the requirements of a multi-year repayment plan. There will be times during the plan when motions and court hearings will be needed. If you want to file a simple Chapter 7 case, Upsolve looks forward to helping you. If you have a more complex case, Upsolve can help you find an experienced attorney in your area.
If you’re having your income reduced due to a garnishment or if a creditor is threatening a wage garnishment, you need legal help. You don’t have to go through this situation alone. An experienced attorney may be able to eliminate a wage garnishment that’s already started. A bankruptcy attorney may also be able to reduce or eliminate debts that lead a garnishment. You don’t have to shoulder the burden of garnishments on your own. The quicker you seek legal advice, the quicker your garnishment will end.