Stopping a wage garnishment is a long process that requires careful planning and a fair amount of knowledge about local laws and court proceedings. A wage garnishment is a legal order requiring an employer to divert some portion of a worker’s wages to a court for transfer to third party. Once a wage garnishment order has been issued by a court of law, you generally must have an acceptable legal basis to have it overturned. Though wage garnishment laws are highly dependent on local law, and the circumstances that make up an acceptable legal basis for stopping a wage garnishment will necessarily vary from state to state and even county to county, the broad procedures for stopping a wage garnishment are largely similar across court jurisdictions. That said, it is absolutely essential that you study your local laws before attempting to deal with legal matters at court.
Wage garnishments typically arise when a person (called the judgment debtor) fails to pay a money judgment entered in a court of law. When the party who won the money judgment, called the judgment creditor, is unable to collect the money owed, he or she can file a request for wage garnishment with the court that originally entered the judgment. This request is called a writ of garnishment in many states. If the judgment creditor’s request meets the legal requirements, the court issues a garnishment order and several associated documents. A copy of the order and the documents is typically sent to both the judgment debtor and the judgment debtor’s employer, whose responsibility it is to carry out the garnishment. Generally, after receiving a wage garnishment order, the employer must immediately respond to the court with an initial statement of the judgment debtor’s earnings. The judgment debtor will also receive a copy of this statement from the employer.
Once the judgment debtor receives the garnishment order and associated documents, as well as the statement of earnings from the employer, he or she has a limited time in which to request a court hearing to refute the garnishment. This deadline will be clearly identified in the garnishment documents, as will the procedure for requesting a hearing. In Arizona, for example, the judgment debtor has only 10 days to request a hearing before the right to do so is lost.
To stop a wage garnishment, you must show that it is legally invalid in a hearing before the court. If you are unable to secure the help of a lawyer, you will have to access and read your state’s garnishment laws to determine whether you have a legal basis to establish the garnishment is invalid. First, however, read all the garnishment documents you received carefully. They will describe your legal rights and responsibilities, and will also identify the relevant laws and statutes governing wage garnishment in your state. To access the text of these laws, visit the reference library at your local courthouse or visit the community library in your town for assistance. Alternatively, state laws and statutes are commonly available for viewing on the State Legislature’s website.
It is essential that you find a true legal basis before you request a court hearing to refute the garnishment. If you request a court hearing and you do not have a reasonable argument based in law, many courts will have the option of fining you in proportion to the time wasted by the court and the participants at the hearing.
If you do have a true legal basis for refuting the garnishment, request a hearing as instructed in the garnishment documents you received. A hearing will be scheduled for a future date, during which you will make your argument. Typically, the judgment creditor is required to appear at such a hearing and is welcomed to speak on his or her behalf. Should your argument show the wage garnishment to be invalid, the court will take action as the law requires.
If you believe the wage garnishment to be valid in law, you always have the option of paying the full balance of the underlying debt in order to stop a wage garnishment from going forward.