I have been getting a lot of phone calls lately regarding wage garnishments. Getting a wage garnishment notice can be a very scary thing. It can mean that you won't be able to pay for food, rent, or any other household necessities. It can also cause you to default on other debts you may owe. In California, the law allows your creditor to take 25% of your net income. There are a couple of solutions to fighting a wage garnishment.
First, you should call the creditor. The creditor will want you to set up an alternative arrangement to the wage garnishment. The best strategies for speaking to creditors include offering lump sum payments. Often times the creditor will want to get information about where you bank. It is not wise to give this information to the creditor, as he may use to levy your bank account. Just call and see if he will work on an alternative payment arrangement. If he is unwilling, move onto step two.
Second, you should file an exemption as soon as your receive the garnishment notice. In California, you are allowed to file an exemption to the wage garnishment. Click here for the claim of exemption form. This form is aimed at showing the court that you cannot afford to give the creditor 25% of your net income because then you won't be able to pay for the necessities of life. In addition to filing the claim of exemption form, you will also have to complete a financial statement. The financial statement will disclose your income and expenses and show that there is no money available for the creditor because of your necessary expenses. Once you completely fill out the claim of exemption and financial statement, then you must send those documents to the levying officer. The levying officer is normally your county sheriff. I recommend calling your local county sheriff department to determine how many copies of the claim of exemption and financial statement they require.
Third, you can consider fighting the underlying judgment. This is typically done by stating to the court that the original summons was not properly served and therefore the judgment that is being enforced is not valid. In order to succeed on such a claim, you would have to prove that you never received the summons in the first place. This can be a difficult task. I suggest you contact an attorney for information if you believe you were never served with notice of the original lawsuit.
Finally, you can consider bankruptcy. A bankruptcy will stop a wage garnishment in its tracks. Additionally, any other debts that you may have will also be included in the bankruptcy. You may be able to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy and eliminate all of your debts without having to pay any creditors back. If you don't qualify for a chapter 7, then you may be eligible for a chapter 13 bankruptcy which gives you three to five years to pay back your creditors and normally reduces the amount of your debt as well.
The above information is not intended as legal advice. Please ensure that you consult with an attorney in regards to your options.