4 Ways to Deal with Wage Garnishment

Keep calm and work something out with your debtors

If creditors are threatening you with wage garnishment because of overdue bills, it can be very stressful, not to mention embarrassing. After all, you don’t want your boss—or even just the H.R. department—to know that you’re behind on certain debts, right?

Well, unfortunately, your employer does find out about a wage garnishment, mainly because when creditors legally garnish your wages, they first need to obtain a court order. That legal notice is then provided to your employer to show justification for the wage garnishment.

The best thing you can do is to take steps to avoid wage garnishment in the first place, or at least try to deal with the issue head on—don’t just ignore the problem!

Here’s are four things you can do to stop the garnishment of your wages.

1. Stay in touch with your creditor

Wage garnishment is typically a last ditch effort by creditors to squeeze some cash out of you when they haven’t been successful in getting you to pay or possibly even return their phone calls. It’s likely that they’ve exhausted all other options and cannot get you to pay for your debt within a reasonable amount of time.

Remember that a creditor will pursue wage garnishment when they cannot seem to get you to pay your debt within a certain timeframe. If you have been ignoring them or refuse to talk to them (and haven’t filed for bankruptcy so that the creditor is required by law to stop contacting you or pursue further action), you put yourself in a weaker position. Do your best to stay in touch with the creditor and work on setting up a reasonable repayment plan. Showing the creditor you have every intention of paying back your debt might encourage them to back off for now.

2. File an appeal

If the wage garnishment has already been approved by the court, you do have the right to file a “claim of exemption,” which basically shows that you cannot afford this type of pay cut because your paycheck is covering all of your basic living costs, such as housing, insurance and your grocery bill.

You will need to prove to the court that you would essentially get behind on your regular bills if your wages were garnished. If the court is convinced that the garnishment would end up putting you in a worse financial situation than you are already in, they may prevent the creditor from garnishing your wages or ask the creditor to reduce the amount that is to be garnished.

3. Pay the judgment amount

If you do have some funds available to pay off the full debt within 10 days of the judgment, the court can stop the garnishment process altogether. Make sure you’re aware of the judgment amount and take steps to pay it off in full as soon as you can.

4. File for bankruptcy protection

The simplest way to stop garnishment of your wages is to file for bankruptcy, but that’s not always a feasible solution for most people. And obviously, bankruptcy isn’t a step to take lightly given the impact that it will have on your credit rating. But if you’re already swimming in debt, and you have certain bills that you’ll never be able to pay off (like large medical bills), bankruptcy may be the right option.

Being proactive when creditors are coming after you can help to prevent this drastic step altogether. Do your best to work out a repayment plan with your creditors so that they are confident you will be paying the debt within a certain time frame. That’s the best way to keep creditors off your back and prevent them from garnishing your wages.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a personal finance expert and co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter @themoneycoach and Google Plus.