Wage garnishment can cause major financial trouble. For those already considering filing for bankruptcy, it can be a catastrophe. That’s why it’s so important to know your rights regarding wage garnishment, bankruptcy, and stopping wage garnishment during bankruptcy.
If you have filed for bankruptcy and your wages are still being garnished, you most likely want to know how to get your employer to stop deducting money from your paycheck. Maybe you’ve advised them that you’ve filed for bankruptcy and you thought that was all that was necessary. Before you get to upset with your employer, remember that in order for a creditor to take money directly from your paycheck, they had to obtain a court order. (The only major exceptions to this requirement are for student loans or taxes; government agencies in charge of these types of debt can contact your employer directly to start garnishing wages).
But in a typical creditor case, it’s pretty straightforward. The creditor sues you. They obtain a judgment from the court. They wait a fixed time period for you to appeal the judgment. Once the designated time has passed, they can request an order to garnish your wages. The creditor actually serves the garnishment order on the sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department then actually serves your employer with the order. The employer begins deducting money from your paycheck in accordance with the order form the court. The money pulled from your paycheck is mailed by check to the sheriff. The sheriff holds on to the funds for a time period that can range widely from 7 days to a full month, after which he sends the check to the creditor. *
*The details of this process may vary depending upon your state of residence.
Once the wage garnishment is place you can stop it by filing for bankruptcy, but it doesn’t stop automatically. The automatic stay that stops creditors from actively seeking payment for your debt once you file for bankruptcy does not reverse the wage garnishment action that was already taken. The creditor, your employer and the sheriff all need to be properly notified of the bankruptcy (this does not happen automatically – you or your attorney need to make sure it happens). Notification of the bankruptcy filing should be provided by mail, but may also be duplicated by fax and/or email. Failure to act immediately or failure to follow the correct procedure could result in the wage garnishment continuing much longer than necessary.
If you have more questions about filing for bankruptcy or stopping wage garnishment, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California bankruptcy attorneys at Westgate Law.