If you are facing a wage garnishment, the attorneys at Ginsberg Law Offices can help you. When we file your Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, any pending garnishment (except for child support) will stop immediately. Any funds seized after the date of your bankruptcy filing will be returned to you.
State Court Judgments Can Result in Significant Seizure of Your Income or Bank Accounts.
In most cases, wage garnishments arise from lawsuit judgments. Judgments come from lawsuits. For example, if a credit card company filed suit against you for non-payment and you did not answer, a default judgment would issue against you. If you were involved in litigation and lost, a judgment would issue against you.
Our clients sometimes report that they were not even aware of a pending lawsuit, much less a judgment. This type of unpleasant surprise happens more often than you might think. Sheriff’s deputies, who are responsible for serving the lawsuit, are permitted to leave the lawsuit with an adult who answers the door to your house. We sometimes see cases where a spouse accepts service but fails to deliver the lawsuit papers to the named defendant. In other cases, often involving credit card debt, the cardholder agreement provides that payment disputes shall be referred to an arbitrator out of state, or that a specific court in another state shall be the venue for any collection lawsuit. These venue provisions effectively mean that you have waived your right to defend a collection lawsuit in your county. Some legal commentators argue that this type of venue shifting is unconstitutional or illegal, but unless you have the funds to mount a “collateral attack” against the judgment, you will be stuck with it.
If your creditor possesses an out of state judgment, it can “domesticate” the judgment in your home county. Once a judgment is domesticated here, you will be subject to wage garnishment, bank account levy and any other remedies otherwise available to a winning plaintiff here in Georgia.
Wage Garnishment Threatens 25% of Your Net Pay and Possibly Your Job
Once a judgment has been issued, your creditor can ask the local sheriff’s office for a “fi fa” and a summons for continuing garnishment. Your employer will be served with this garnishment summons and ordered to withhold 25% of your after tax earnings. In addition, your employer may charge a handling fee for the extra paperwork involved with fulfilling the garnishment requirements.
Be aware that your employer cannot choose to ignore a summons of continuing garnishment. If your employer does not honor the summons, your employer will become responsible for payment of the entire debt.
As you might imagine, human resource and payroll coordinators for most employers find wage garnishments troublesome for a number of reasons. Firstly, your employer must expend time and effort to complete the paperwork associated with calculating and processing garnishment orders. Secondly, until the garnishment is paid in full or otherwise released, your employer has potential financial liability if there are errors with the paperwork. Finally, your credibility may be called into question as a defendant found liable for a judgment in a lawsuit. It would not be an understatement to conclude that your job might be at risk if you involve your employer in your personal business and wage garnishment.
Ginsberg Law Offices can stop any pending garnishment no matter where you fall in the process. If you contact us before the pending lawsuit against you goes into default, we may be able to avoid a judgment from issuing. If a judgment has been issued, the judgment creditor’s right to seize your wages terminates the instant we file your bankruptcy case. Sometimes, money that has been seized can be returned to you or it can be used to pay non-dischargeable debt like taxes.
Special Bankruptcy Motion to Avoid Lien Protects Your Income in the Future
Because an outstanding judgment can continue to affect you negatively, we also use the power of the Bankruptcy Court to eliminate the judgment lien altogether. In many cases, we can file a Motion to Avoid the Judicial Lien, which results in a cancellation of the filed judgment against you. An order avoiding the judgment actually changes your creditor’s status – the judgment will be canceled and your judgment creditor will have no more rights than any other discharged unsecured creditor. After your bankruptcy ends, your judgment creditors will be discharged and lose any right to come after you again.
Summary: Judgments and wage garnishments function as powerful tools used by creditors to seize your money. When we file your bankruptcy case, your creditors are powerless to take any action and they lose their right to seize your wages. You can file a bankruptcy at any point in the pre-judgment or judgment process to put an end to creditor action. Don’t wait until your wages are at risk – call Ginsberg Law Offices at 770-393-4985 as soon as you suspect any risk of wage garnishment. If you prefer, grab a pencil and fill out our short questionnaire then fax or email it to us – we’ll get right back to you.
How does Bankruptcy Stop a Wage Garnishment?
Yes, bankruptcy can stop a wage garnishment. Generally the filing of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case will create something called an “automatic stay” which will put an immediate halt to any pending garnishment. Different rules regarding the automatic stay may apply if you have previously filed a bankruptcy within the last few years – your lawyer can explain these rules.
In Georgia, a wage garnishment occurs when a creditor obtains something called a writ of fieri facias (also called a “Fi Fa”) against you. Generally, creditors can only get a fi fa if they have obtained a court judgment against you, however, the IRS and State of Georgia can get a fi fa without going to court because of special rights assigned to taxing authorities.
Our firm often speaks to clients who are frantic and angry when they discover that checks for rent, groceries or utilities have bounced because someone has garnished their paycheck. In almost every one of these situations we discover that our client had been served with a lawsuit many months earlier, but nothing happened for several months until the garnishment was actually served on their employer.
Can I Ask my Employer to Hold Off on Withholding Money While I Think About What to Do?
Unfortunately, your employer is not likely to sit on the garnishment order. This is because under the law, if your employer does not honor the garnishment, it will become responsible for the full amount of the judgment. Obviously, your employer is not going to want to pay your debt so our experience has been that employers always honor wage garnishment orders.