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Wage Garnishment: How Does It Work?

FIle-Wage Garnishment

You may have been threatened by collections agencies in the past that, if you don’t pay what you owe immediately, they’ll begin to take money straight out of your paycheck. While it is conceivable that your wages could be garnished with funds going to a creditor, this isn’t the whole story on how wages are garnished. Below, learn more about how collections agencies and creditors can seek to have your wages garnished, and what you can do to forestall this.

When your wages are garnished, the debt collector (be it the state or federal government, a medical office, or a private company) uses an order issued by a court to compel your employer to submit a portion of your paycheck to the creditor before you receive that paycheck. Creditors or debt collectors often try to scare you into making a payment by threatening wage garnishment, but they must first complete numerous legal steps before they can get to your wages. A creditor cannot garnish your wages without first obtaining a judgment against you, based on the debt they wish to collect. This means that the creditor must file—and win—a lawsuit against you before your paycheck can be docked.

The debt collector will need to file suit and serve a copy of the lawsuit on you. You’ll have 30 or 40 days to answer the lawsuit, depending on whether you were served in person or otherwise, and there are generally two ways you can answer: admit to owing the debt, or dispute the legitimacy of the debt. If you admit to owing the debt, the court will generally enter the judgment against you relatively quickly, since there is little left for the court to decide. The debt collector can then seek to collect the amount awarded to them in the lawsuit by garnishing your wages. Should you instead dispute the debt, the court will then schedule a hearing where both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence regarding the legitimacy of the debt. Not only could this hearing allow you to eliminate a debt that you don’t believe you owe, but it could also offer you some additional time before your wages are garnished. This will allow you to discuss options to address your debt with a professional California consumer law attorney, including negotiating a settlement or filing for bankruptcy.

If you have been struggling to stay current on your consumer or medical debt payments and need help, contact the compassionate and seasoned Ventura bankruptcy attorneys at Rounds & Sutter for a consultation, at 805-650-7100.