If you owe money and your creditor gets a judgment against you, that creditor can garnish your wages to receive either 25% of your disposable earnings or your disposable earnings less 30 times the current federal minimum wage. Under some circumstances, a creditor may be able to take more.
Not only will this leave you short of income, but garnishment can affect your employment situation, since complying is a hassle for employers. Employers who receive a garnishment order must deal with paperwork and forms and then withhold money from your paycheck and send it to your creditor.
While Ohio and federal laws protect you from being fired solely because of wage garnishments by one creditor in a 12-month period, if you have two or more garnishments, your employer may let you go.
What should you do if you are faced with wage garnishment? There are steps to prevent garnishment, and you have options even if a creditor is already garnishing your wages.
Because the laws (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2716) are complicated, your best bet is to seek legal advice. The skilled and seasoned 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 financial situation and develop a plan to stop garnishment and even get garnished wages returned through bankruptcy.
When Can Creditors Garnish Your Wages in Ohio?
Creditors can garnish your wages only if they first sue you in court and obtain a judgment for money damages. There are some exceptions, and creditors do not need a court judgment to garnish wages for:
- Unpaid income taxes – federal, state, and local
- Court-ordered child support and child support arrears
- Student loans in default status.
How Can I Stop Garnishment?
If there is a judgment against you, the court will send a demand letter to you requesting payment of the judgment amount. The notice must provide you with information about options available to you to avoid wage garnishment. If you do not respond to the demand letter, your employer will have to start garnishment paperwork.
An attorney can make sure you return the notice on time with either a payment or a calculation showing your total earnings are exempt. If you do not, the creditor can get the order to garnish your pay. If you disagree with the garnishment, you can ask for a court hearing, but going to court on your own is difficult, and if you make a mistake, you lose.
Other options to avoid garnishment include:
1) Paying Without Formal Garnishment
With your demand letter or notice, you will get a form titled “Payment to Avoid Garnishment.” Complete the form and return it to the creditor within 15 days and you can make periodic payments without having to go through the formal garnishment process.
2) Getting a Trustee
You have 15 days to file an affidavit with the nearest municipal or common pleas court, which will assign a clerk as your trustee to take money out of each paycheck to give to your creditors.
3) Using a Credit Counseling Service
If you get a debt counseling service, the counselors will calculate a single payment that will be distributed among your creditors and help you build a budget.
4) Filing for Bankruptcy
The easiest method to stop the garnishment is to file for bankruptcy protection.
Bankruptcy Will Stop Wage Garnishments
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.
Once your bankruptcy is filed, there is an automatic stay, which means all collection activity and wage garnishments must stop. At the time you file, you must list all your creditors so they can be notified of the bankruptcy. However, there is a chance that creditors may not be alerted in time to put a stop on garnishments.
While creditors ordinarily can keep wage garnishments obtained prior to the date you file, wages garnished within 90 days before the bankruptcy filing can be returned if they were over $600 and you have enough exemptions to cover them. Any funds garnished after your bankruptcy is filed must be immediately returned, and an attorney can help you get back some of your wages even if they were garnished before bankruptcy. Garnishments are stopped as long as the bankruptcy stay is in effect.
The automatic stay ends when you receive a discharge, your case is dismissed without a discharge, or when the court lifts the stay. A knowledgeable attorney can make sure that your case is handled properly to avoid having your case dismissed.
Free Initial Consultations For Ohio Residents Facing Garnishment
If you are faced with garnishment of your wages, time is of the essence. If you cannot become current in your payments or make another arrangement with your creditor, you may be able to prevent garnishment by filing for bankruptcy or taking other steps. An attorney who is experienced with garnishment and bankruptcy law can guide you through the process. Contact the experienced and compassionate Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.
We welcome inquiries from clients throughout central and southwestern Ohio. From our law offices in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, we have helped countless Ohio residents find new hope and prevent garnishment.
Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call the Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today at one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati), or email for your free consultation.