If you are a Columbus resident struggling to pay your debts, the last thing you need is to lose 25 percent of your disposable earnings. Unfortunately, that can happen if your creditors are awarded a judgment against you and garnish your wages, taking money from each paycheck until the debt is paid.
Having your wages garnished is an embarrassing situation that will do more than leave you deeper in a financial hole. Wage garnishment will create annoying paperwork for your employer, who now knows you have financial difficulties; and if you keep having multiple garnishments, it can even cost you your job.
What should you do if you are faced with wage garnishment? Your best bet is to seek legal advice. The skilled and seasoned Columbus, Ohio, bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand that financial problems can happen to even the most well-intentioned people. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your situation and develop a plan to keep you free from actions such as wage garnishment.
Garnishment allows someone to take money from your wages or from your bank account. Usually, this happens when a creditor files a lawsuit against you for past due amounts, plus interest and late fees. You will receive a copy of the Complaint against you, which states what the creditor claims are the facts of the case and what the creditor wants. You will also receive a Summons that lists the names and addresses of the court, the parties, and the date that you must respond to the Complaint.
If the court grants the creditor a judgment against you, the court will send a demand letter to you requesting payment. If you don’t pay or take steps to stop it, the creditor can not only garnish your wages, but take money from your bank accounts and put liens on your property. According to Ohio law, the demand notice must provide you with information about ways to avoid wage garnishment.
If you do not respond to this letter, you will receive wage garnishment paperwork. You must return with either a payment or a calculation showing your total earnings are exempt. If you do not return the paperwork on time, the creditor can then get an order to garnish your pay.
You can ask for a hearing if you disagree with the garnishment. If you lose, your pay and bonus checks will be garnished until the amount of the judgment has been paid off or your circumstances change.
When you receive the demand notice, it is essential to immediately take steps to stop the garnishment before the allowed time limit runs out. The Columbus Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer can help you decide on the actions that are best for you. Possibilities include:
With your demand letter or notice, you will get a form titled “Payment to Avoid Garnishment.” If you think you will be able to pay what you owe without formal garnishment, complete the form and return it to the creditor within 15 days.
The payment form calculates 25 percent of your wages and the proportion by which your earnings exceed the federal minimum wage. Your payment will be the lesser of these amounts, and as long as you make payments, wage garnishment proceedings stop. When your debt is paid in full, the creditor must file a form with the court stating that the judgment has been satisfied.
You may request the appointment of a trustee. You must first file an affidavit that list the names and addresses of all your creditors, the total amount of each creditor’s claim against you, and the amount you will pay the trustee out of each paycheck.
You have 15 days to file the affidavit with the nearest Municipal or Common Pleas court. The Franklin County Municipal Court is located at 375 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.
Once your trustee has been appointed, creditors can no longer garnish your wages as long as you keep making your payments.
A debt counseling service will allow you to pay off your debt over time by attempting to negotiate a repayment plan with your creditors.. The counselors will calculate a payment that will be distributed among your creditors and help you build a budget. Your creditors may continue to pursue the collection of the debt if they do not agree with the repayment terms proposed.
Bankruptcy is a way to eliminate many of your debts and get a fresh start financially. The most common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 allows you to liquidate any non-exempt assets to pay creditors, and this eliminates remaining debt. Chapter 13 reorganizes your debts and sets up a payment plan monitored by the court and a trustee and allows you to keep many assets. Filing bankruptcy will stop or cease all creditor collection efforts including garnishment, foreclosure, vehicle repossession, and utility disconnection.
Be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages to filing under the various chapters, and you will still be responsible for certain debts, including child support, spousal support obligations, student loans and most unpaid taxes. Garnishment to pay some of these “priority debts” may not stop due to a bankruptcy automatic stay so it is important that you review your case with an experienced attorney
Still, bankruptcy can eliminate credit card debt, medical bills and unsecured loans, and stop garnishment and harassment by creditors. Also, once a bankruptcy case has been filed, any post-petition wage garnishment will be returned to you. In some situations, we can even help you recover wages that were garnished within 90 days before filing for bankruptcy.
If you are faced with garnishment of your wages, time is of the essence. Take the first step toward debt relief by contacting the experienced and compassionate Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.
We know what you are going through. We will evaluate your entire financial picture by looking at your income, your debts and your goals, and we will discuss the best fit for your individual situation. We will handle every phase of the process and find what works best for you.
Delaying will only make your situation worse, so call the Columbus, Ohio, bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today at our Columbus office at 614-228-4435, or email for your free consultation.
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