Having your wages garnished by a creditor will give you that sinking-gut feeling generally experienced right before narrowly avoiding a car accident. It is one of the most common reasons people come to see an Atlanta bankruptcy attorney to help them file a Chapter 7 or 13 petition , as once your bankruptcy petition is filed, the automatic stay will stop any continuing garnishment of your wages or bank accounts.
You've Been Sued
If your wages are being garnished, you have likely been sued. It is EXTREMELY difficult to get a pre-judgment (before you are sued) garnishment, so if your wages or bank accounts are being garnished and you have no idea why, a potential creditor sued you in state court by filing a complaint in the county in which you live. If you failed to file a legal answer (which typically requires to assistance of an experienced attorney), the creditor will receive what is called a "default judgment". If you actually defended the law suit by filing an answer and showing up to a possible scheduled trial calendar, then the creditor would have received a judgment on the merits. If that happened, you probably wouldn't be asking why my wages are being garnished, as garnishment is one of the most common forms of post-judgment collection used in Atlanta. A judgment is merely a final decision by the judge overseeing your case that one party is either right or wrong. In other words, the judgment is the written order of the judge deciding your case that you owe a certain amount of money to the creditor who sued you. Once the creditor obtains that judgment, it can file a petition to garnish your wages. Once the petition is granted, a judge (possible a different judge than the one who decided your case) will sign an order that will be sent to the garnishee (your employer or bank) to hold a certain percentage of your wages to be sent directly to the creditor. While there are numerous ways to attack a garnishment, bankruptcy is the most powerful.
How Do I Stop My Wages From Being Garnished?
Filing with a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will immediately stop your wages from being garnished. In fact, with the careful use of the Georgia exemption laws, you may even be able to force the creditor who garnished your wages to give some of it back. This is why it is imperative that you should consult with a bankruptcy attorney when faced with a garnishment. A bankruptcy petition preparer will only download the publicly available forms from the court's website and help you fill out the appropriate paperwork. They cannot give you legal advice; they will not attend the 341 meeting with you; and they do not know the intricacies of the bankruptcy code that will save you thousands of dollars and hours of grief.
Rountree Leitman Klein & Geer, LLC's blog is a resource provided to clients, prospective clients, and colleagues that discusses issues related to Personal Bankruptcy, Business Bankruptcy, Collections, and Litigation.