Wages garnished? Its not to late to stop it!

If your wages have been garnished, chances are that you have already been struggling financially and a wage garnishment is the last thing in the world that you need right now. First you were sued by a creditor, and now they have obtained a court order requiring your employer to withhold money from your hard earned paycheck in order to satisfy a judgment.  This is money that you cannot afford to have taken from your pay! Hard working people should never to be in a situation where they wonder how they are going to make rent, pay the mortgage or put food on the table just because their wages are going be garnished. Yet it happens all the time. A wage garnishment is often the difference between barely scraping by and suddenly, not being able to make it anymore.

How much can they garnish?

While it is true that in Illinois only 15% of your gross income can be garnished, this sum could mean everything when it comes to making ends meet for families. Just how much can be garnished from your paycheck? First, you should determine whether or not anything is already being garnished from you. For example, if you are paying child support, then your employer usually cannot garnish more. The 15% rule does have its limits, but barely. A wage garnishment cannot leave you with net of less than 45 times the state minimum wage as your weekly take home pay. Calculating the state minimum wage in Illinois at $8.25 per hour, you can’t be left with less than $371.25 per week, take home. To calculate the most that can be garnished from you, multiply your weekly gross pay (before deductions) times .15. Take your net weekly income and subtract $371.25. The lower of these two numbers is what can be taken from you in a wage garnishment. Either way, it is probably too much. It is more than you can afford to lose because clearly you are already having financial problems, and the wage garnishment is just making everything that much worse.

What happens after an order for wage garnishment?

Wage garnishments are usually the result of a creditor who has already obtained a judgment against you, going to court for an order allowing money to be taken out of your paycheck for failure to pay up. Once the court enters the wage garnishment order, it is sent to your employer. It can be embarrassing but that is probably the least of your worries. Your employer is then required by law to hold back your pay and it goes to the creditor. What happens to you after this is up to you because there is a way to stop a wage garnishment dead in its tracks, legally.

Can I stop the wage garnishment and if so, when?

The bankruptcy laws were written to protect the people who can least afford a wage garnishment from having it happen, precisely because of how absolutely devastating it can be to a person and his or her family.  Bankruptcy isn’t possible for everyone, but those who most deserve a second chance will qualify, and it will end a wage garnishment by what is called an automatic stay. The automatic stay is a powerful order issued by the federal government, through the United States Bankruptcy Court. In a nutshell, it tells your creditors to back off! It is not a suggestion and creditors face stiff penalities if they don't comply with the stay order. They cannot call you, they cannot send you anything in the mail, they cannot harass you and best of all, they cannot garnish your paycheck anymore! Unfortunately, they still get to keep all of your money that they took before you filed for bankruptcy, so don’t delay if you have been sued. It is best to look into your bankruptcy options before your wages are garnished. But, it is better late than never. You do what you have to do. We all do. Assuming you end the bankruptcy successfully with a bankruptcy discharge, your creditor cannot resume garnishments once your bankruptcy is over because the debt went away with it. That is one of the many beautiful things about bankruptcy. Please do not feel bad if you are considering bankruptcy as a way out of your wage garnishment. Very, very few people ever intend to be in this situation and truly wish that they could pay everyone back. But life happens and sometimes that is not always possible. You need to save yourself and your family first.

If your wages are being garnished or you have just been sued and are worried about your wages being garnished later, the smart thing to do is look into bankruptcy so that you can decide for yourself if it is a good option for you. Don’t wait. I would be happy to help you explore your options, with no obligation on your part. Or, let me send you my free book “Bankruptcy Myths Exposed”. Claim your free copy now which is also available for immediate download. Don't let them take your pay if you don't have to! You may have choices. 

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Injury & Accidents, Disability Insurance.