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Irvine Bankruptcy Lawyer / Wage Garnishment

The Law Office of Charles A. May is your trusted advocate for consumer bankruptcy and related matters in Irvine and Southern California. One financial challenge that many people face is wage garnishment, a stressful experience that can significantly impact your ability to make ends meet at a time when you are already stressing over meeting your monthly obligations. But did you know that filing for bankruptcy can provide immediate relief from wage garnishment while also working to get you out of debt? Learn more below about wage garnishments in California and how bankruptcy can help. For personal advice related to your specific situation in Orange County, Los Angeles or Southern California, call The Law Office of Charles A. May for a free consultation with a qualified and compassionate lawyer.

What Is Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment is a legal process where a portion of your paycheck is withheld and directly sent to your creditor to satisfy a debt you owe. A creditor usually has to go to court to get a judgment against you or a court order to initiate wage garnishment. Government agencies like the IRS can also issue wage garnishment orders in some circumstances. While having your wages garnished is distressing, it is important to remember that you have rights and legal remedies available.

When Is Wage Garnishment Allowed?

In California, a creditor cannot garnish your wages without first obtaining a court judgment, with the exception of some debts like child support, student loans, and taxes. This means that the creditor must first file a lawsuit, prove that you owe the debt, and get the court’s approval before they can begin taking money directly from your paychecks. As with any time you are sued, you might have defenses that would prevent the creditor from getting a judgment against you. Some viable defenses to a debt collection lawsuit include:

  • The party does not have a legal right to collect the debt (they don’t “own” the debt)
  • They are mistaken regarding how much you owe
  • You already paid the debt they say you owe
  • You have not been given sufficient time to repay the debt under the terms of the financial agreement or California law

Limits on Wage Garnishment in California

California has specific laws in place that limit how much can be garnished from your wages. For most debts, the lesser of the following can be garnished:

  1. 25% of your disposable earnings, or
  2. The amount by which your disposable earnings exceed 40 times the minimum hourly wage.

Disposable earnings are what is left of your income after legally required deductions like taxes and Social Security are taken out. This means that a significant portion of your income is protected from garnishment under California law. Creditors are further limited regarding how much they can garnish from the wages of a low-income debtor.

Dealing with Wage Garnishment Through Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy can offer an immediate solution to wage garnishment. When you file for bankruptcy, an “automatic stay” comes into effect. This stay prohibits most creditors from continuing collection activities, including wage garnishment. The automatic stay will also halt any lawsuits, so it can be valuable in preventing a wage garnishment from ever being instituted.

Moreover, if the debt leading to the garnishment is a type that can be discharged in bankruptcy—such as credit card debt or medical bills—the garnishment will end permanently upon the debt’s discharge in Chapter 7 or while you are making payments in Chapter 13.

Reclaiming Garnished Wages Through Bankruptcy

Under certain circumstances, you can even recover some or all of your wages that have already been garnished by filing for bankruptcy. If you can prove that the garnished amount caused significant financial hardship, there is a chance the court may order the creditor to refund some or all of those garnished wages back to you. This is one of the many ways bankruptcy provides immediate, real relief to people struggling with debt.

Contact The Law Office of Charles A. May for Help With Wage Garnishments and Bankruptcy

Getting hit with wage garnishment can be an embarrassing way for your boss to find out you are having financial troubles. Filing for bankruptcy can stop wage garnishment before it starts or halt one that has started and lift it permanently. For trusted advice and professional assistance with bankruptcy matters in Orange County, Los Angeles, or elsewhere in Southern California, call The Law Office of Charles A. May for a free consultation with a skilled and effective bankruptcy attorney.

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