How Can A Wage Garnishment Be Avoided?
A wage garnishment occurs when a creditor files suit in civil court to collect a debt. If a judgement is rendered against the debtor, the debt may be repaid through an order for their employer to withhold a portion of their wages and pay it to the creditor.
There are options available for avoiding a judgement and subsequent garnishment, as well as stopping them after they are initiated. However, these options must be actively pursued. Avoiding creditors or becoming overwhelmed and doing nothing will limit your options and result in a loss of control of your personal finances.
Talk to your creditors
Most creditors will be flexible if you are experiencing a temporary setback. Many credit providers have special hardship programs that will allow deferred payments, restructuring of debts, or other allowances that will enable a customer to get their finances back on track.
Avoiding creditors' calls or making promises to pay that can't be fulfilled will lead creditors to believe that they must pursue legal means to recover the debt.
Consult with a non-profit consumer credit counseling provider
Consumer credit counseling centers are funded by credit providers to assist debtors in repaying burdensome unsecured debts. They will assess all of your unsecured debt and ability to repay, and will set up a debt repayment plan after negotiating with creditors on interest, interest rate reductions, or other concessions.
Secured debts, such as home mortgages or car payments, are not typically included in the plan. These debts must be renegotiated and repaid outside of the plan.
The debtor then pays a single monthly payment to the credit counseling center, which disburses the funds to individual creditors. As long as the debtor remains current in payments to the plan, judgements and other civil court actions can be avoided.
Filing for bankruptcy protection in federal court will prevent any debt collection actions from being initiated, as well as stop any actions that have already commenced, through an automatic "stay." This stay will continue until the bankruptcy proceedings have concluded, and will remain in place if the bankruptcy petition is approved.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy
This type of bankruptcy allows a debtor of moderate means to keep their assets while making regular payments to creditors through a court trustee. Secured debts must be repaid in full, but the debts can be renegotiated and arrangements made to pay late payments. Unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, will be repaid according to disposable income, which is based on funds left over after a debtor's living expenses are paid.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy
Chapter 7 eliminates all debt, but at the cost of surrendering assets such as a home, property, or vehicles. Some exemptions may apply, and debtors of moderate means may be allowed to keep some assets and renew debts for essential property.
Bankruptcies remain on credit reports for ten years, and may inhibit the ability to obtain credit for years after the case is resolved. Of course, judgements and garnishments will also damage credit ratings, but they will only remain on credit reports for seven years. However, when debt is controlled or eliminated, some creditors will still offer credit after bankruptcy, albeit at high interest rates.
Always take the initiative when you suffer from a financial setback. Communicate with creditors or their legal representative, such as Sinsheimer, Stuart J and explore your options for getting through financial difficulties with the least impact on your credit score and your finances.