Understanding Garnishments

Garnishments occur when you miss a number of payments to a creditor and they take you to court, obtain a judgment against you, and collect the amount they are owed by having it diverted from your paycheck or withdrawn from your bank account. In some cases, such as when you owe child support, the creditor can force garnishment without a court order.

It’s a stressful experience but not an uncommon one: according to CreditRepair.com, between 2011 and 2013, an estimated one in 10 Americans between the ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished.

Common sources of wage garnishment include:

  • Consumer debts such as credit card bills, medical debt, and unpaid utility bills
  • Back taxes
  • Student loans
  • Child support

Although you have legal rights that include caps on how much can be taken from your check each time, garnishment is a humiliating process that can make an already-difficult financial situation even worse. Although certain types of income, such as veterans benefits and Social Security, cannot be garnished, the money could be seized once it arrives in your bank account.

Bankruptcy and Garnishment

When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay halts all creditor collections, including wage garnishments. It doesn’t apply to all of your creditors or debts: for example, if you file for Chapter 7 and owe child or spousal support, the stay won’t stop a garnishment currently in effect because domestic obligations cannot be discharged. Consumer debts such as credit card and medical bills will be covered by the automatic stay.

With a Chapter 13 case, all garnishments are stopped, even those for domestic support, because the goal is to repay these debts over a three-to-five year payment plan.

Once your case is filed, the court will notify your creditors. The process can take over a week, but you can stop the garnishment more quickly by providing your employer and the creditor with your bankruptcy case number, filing date, and court location. Once they receive this notification, the garnishment has to stop immediately.

After Your Bankruptcy Concludes

Once your bankruptcy case ends with your discharge, no creditor can try to pick up where they left off by resuming collection actions against you, unless the debts are nondischargeable ones, such as domestic obligations and certain types of back taxes. If your case is dismissed before you receive a discharge, the automatic stay is lifted and all creditors are free to resume their collection actions, including wage garnishment.

Speak to an Oklahoma Bankruptcy Attorney

If your wages are being garnished, leaving you stressed and with even less to live on than before, please contact the Law Offices of B. David Sisson. Attorney Sisson is a board-certified bankruptcy attorney who has a sincere interest in helping his clients move past a financially difficult time in their lives. He will listen to your concerns, advise you on how bankruptcy or one of its alternatives can assist, and guide you from the moment you file until you receive your discharge.

B David Sisson


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