If you live in Dayton, Ohio and you miss payments on your debts, you could be faced with having your wages garnished, giving your creditors permission to take up to 25 percent of your disposable earnings until their debt is paid. This can create frustrating paperwork for your employer, who now knows you have financial difficulties, and if you keep having garnishments, it can wind up costing 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 Dayton, 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 from having your wages garnished and get you back on the path to financial recovery.
The road to wage garnishment usually begins with unexpected expenses that leave you unable to make minimum payments on your credit cards or other debt. Interest and fees build, and if you continue to miss payments, your debt will be turned over to a collections agency or debt buyer.
Debt collectors use heavy tactics to try to get paid, sending you harassing notices and phone calls. If this doesn’t work they will go to court to get a judgment against you, allowing them to garnish your bank accounts and wages.
If the court grants the creditor a judgment against you, you will receive a demand letter requesting payment and providing information about ways to avoid wage garnishment. 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 by which you must respond to the Complaint.
Under Ohio law, to contest the Complaint, you have to respond in 28 days with an answer. The court will set a date for a hearing where you bring paperwork to show why you don’t owe the money or owe less. The judge will then enter a judgment either for you or for the creditor.
If you don’t file an answer, the judge will give the creditor a default judgment against you, which you can’t appeal, and the garnishment process will begin. Your employer will have to give you 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 will receive a garnishment order.
If you disagree with the garnishment, you can ask for a hearing. If you lose, your employer will be ordered to withhold money from your wages 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 runs out. The Dayton, Ohio, bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer can help you decide on the actions that are best for you. Possibilities include:
You can object to wage garnishment in writing to the court if your creditors act inappropriately, including not following procedures, taking too much money from your check, or if the garnishment has continued after you pay if off.
Under Ohio law, some sources of income are exempt from wage garnishment. These include most government benefits, such as Social Security retirement or disability benefits, veterans’ benefits, unemployment benefits, and worker’s compensation, and also spousal or child support and pensions. If you have exempt income sources, you can dispute the wage garnishment notice and request a hearing where you provide proof of exemption. Ohio R.C. § 2329.66.
With your demand letter or notice, you will get a form titled “Payment to Avoid Garnishment.” If you can 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 stops. When your debt is paid in full, the creditor must file a form stating the judgment has been satisfied.
Your 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 to be distributed to your creditors until your debts are repaid. Creditors can no longer garnish your wages as long as you keep making your payments.
You have 15 days to file the affidavit with the nearest Municipal or Common Pleas court. The Dayton Municipal Court is located at:
P.O. Box 10700
301 West Third Street
Dayton, OH 45402
A debt counseling service will allow you to pay off your debt over time without having your wages garnished. The counselors will calculate a payment that will be distributed among your creditors and help you build a budget. Your creditors have to agree to the repayment schedule to avoid the wage garnishment.
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 against you 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 these “priority debts” will not stop due to a bankruptcy automatic stay.
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 cover 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 Dayton, Ohio, bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today at our Dayton office at 937-222-7472, or email for your free consultation.
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