Wage garnishment is a crippling method to repay debts. Through a court order or government agency, a creditor can force your employer to subtract a specified amount from each paycheck. The amount may not accurately reflect your living expenses or financial obligations either. Suddenly, money that is desperately needed is automatically removed.
Now a significant portion of your disposable income is missing each month. Your credit is being severely damaged. And your employer has been made aware of your financial struggles.
Many types of debt can result in wage garnishment, including credit card debt, lease defaults and student loan debt. And though every case is unique, the fact is that the terms of any wage garnishment are set by a court and can be devastating.
Consider Linda Brice, a Los Angeles schoolteacher. Her case was profiled by Bloomberg news last summer. Ms. Brice is a first-grade teacher, a veteran of the Coast Guard and a single mother. Because of a 30-year old student loan that she defaulted on, lawyers seized $900 a month from her paychecks. She pleaded for a lower rate but was instead harassed by the law firm’s collection department supervisor, who told her to give up her car since the firm would do whatever was deemed necessary. “We’re going to go after your bank account. We’re going to go after your salary. We’re going to after your personal belongings,” she was told.
Without a Los Angeles wage garnishment attorney, Ms. Brice took her case before the chief judge of the US District Court for the Central District of California. The judge ruled that Ms. Brice could afford a payment of $25 a month in order to meet her cost of living. But the law firm promptly seized $2496 from Ms. Brice’s bank account and an additional $918 from her next paycheck.
Student loan cases are unique since it is rare that this type of debt will ever be discharged. It would be next to impossible to stop wage garnishment in California or any other state due to a student loan. What’s relatable to others are the severe terms imposed on her and the law firm’s disregard for the court order.
Federal prosecutors often use private law firms to retrieve payments. It’s likely these attorneys will insist on steep wage garnishments. Credit card companies and other private entities will eventually sell your debt to a collection agency. Hence, a wage garnishment attorney can be an important ally.
Although wage garnishment should be avoided if at all possible, federal and California law allows some you some protections. You cannot be fired by your employer the first time your wages are garnished. No more than 25% of your wages, after taxes, can be garnished either.
Ignoring the payment owed on any debt is the worse thing you can do. There are a number of steps you can take to avoid or stop wage garnishment in California once it has started.
At the very least, a reduced payment plan may be worked out by contacting your creditors. It’s especially helpful to act early. Review your living expenses, limit spending where you can and stick to the terms of your payment plan.
But if things have progressed far enough, a Los Angeles wage garnishment attorney may be needed. A wage garnishment attorney can contact your creditor and open a new channel of communication. An exemption can be filed so that your attorney can prove to a judge that the amount being seized exceeds a reasonable or even legal amount. And if no other options remain, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will stop any wage garnishment and may even discharge the original debt.
Contact Oak Tree Law to learn more about your options. Help is still available.