When faced with financial difficulties, the last thing you need to worry about is to have creditors garnish your bank account or paycheck. You may feel like your privacy is being violated in a garnishment.
Without a doubt, it is scary to go through a garnishment because it can cause serious financial hardship when you need to pay your essential bills. If this is your situation and you want a solution to the problem, a Eugene wage garnishment lawyer from Butcher Law Office, LLC can help you.
What Is Wage Garnishment?
A wage garnishment is a court order or order from a government agency (such as an IRS levy) sent to your employer requiring them to withhold a certain amount of money from your paycheck and sent directly to a creditor.
Which Wages Can Be Garnished?
Most creditors need a court judgment before they can get a wage garnishment order. For instance, if you owe a doctor’s bill, the creditor must sue you first, get a judgment, then get an order to garnish your wages.
These situations will typically incur wage garnishment:
- Child support
- Alimony/spousal support
- Unpaid taxes
- Other consumer debts
However, any child support arrears, defaulted student loans, court-ordered child support, and unpaid income taxes can be garnished without a court judgment.
How Much Money Can Be Garnished?
There are limits to how much should be garnished. The whole point is to make money from you but leave you with some for your living expenses.
Under Oregon law, judgment creditors can garnish 25% of your disposable income (money after deductions). There is a minimum threshold to garnishment, however. If you earn less than $254 take home per workweek in wages at a job, a judgment creditor cannot garnish your wages.
How Can I Stop Wage Garnishment Before It Starts?
A creditor or collection agency needs to get a judgment before garnishing a person. This means they have to win a lawsuit. Even though you owe them, you shouldn’t ignore the lawsuit. Consider talking to a wage garnishment lawyer in Eugene, OR. During your free case evaluation, your lawyer will be able to make recommendations on stopping or avoiding a garnishment. If you ignore the lawsuit, you will only be speeding up the process and grant them an easy default judgment.
Some income sources are totally exempt from wage garnishment, e.g., disability benefits, unemployment benefits, Social Security retirement, and workers’ compensation. If some or all of your sources are exempt, you can dispute the wage garnishment notice.
Filing for a Claim of Exemption
You will file a document with the court that gave the garnishment order. You’ll describe the exemption and also provide any proof of dependents. A hearing will be scheduled where you’ll have a chance to prove that your income is exempt. This is commonly known as Challenge to Garnishment.
If you respond to the lawsuit, you avoid a default judgment. With your filed answer, you buy additional time to negotiate a repayment plan with your creditor. At this point, you ought to be working with a law firm. Your lawyer will likely ask you about your financial situation, request you to submit some documents, and ask you how much you can afford to pay each month.
If you come into an agreement with your creditor, you’d have stopped the wage garnishment before it even started. But sometimes, your living expenses and monthly income may not allow you to repay your creditor as much money as you’re supposed to pay through a garnishment order. If this is the case, a creditor is likely to disagree with the agreement.
If you are struggling with more than one debt and several creditors are suing you, bankruptcy in Oregon might work for you. If bankruptcy is an option for you, once you file for it, wage garnishment stops. Your creditors will receive notices alerting them that the “automatic stay” now protects you.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy should take care of the problem and ensure the garnishment doesn’t begin again. You will most likely keep most, if not all, of your essential assets once the bankruptcy process ends. Your Eugene bankruptcy attorney near you will help you determine if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy will not eliminate your debt but offers you debt relief by restructuring your debt into a manageable repayment plan. Besides, it will halt wage garnishments, including domestic support obligations. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy gives you 3-5 years to become current on payments.
A Dedicated Legal Counsel Offering Debt Relief Advice
When faced with a difficult financial problem like debt, you may feel you’re out of options. However, you still have options even if you owe the government.
Because every situation is different, you need an experienced Eugene wage garnishment attorney to help you understand your options and build a strategy to improve your outcomes. A skilled lawyer will protect your rights from debt collectors. Contact us today for a free consultation, and we’ll be happy to help!