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Dealing with wage garnishments

Many Pennsylvania residents have their wages garnished each year due to creditors obtaining judgments against them. People can choose to pay off the debt in full or to keep paying the debt through garnishment if they are able to do so. For many people, this is not an affordable option, however.

There are several steps people can take when this is happening and they are unable to afford the garnishment. They should first try talking with the creditor who is garnishing the wages. It is sometimes possible to negotiate a longer pay period in order to reduce the amount or to negotiate a settlement of the bill at a portion of the total. Creditors are sometimes willing to negotiate in this manner if they believe the debtor going to otherwise file bankruptcy.

Another option is filing for bankruptcy, which halts collection actions. After filing, people then need to notify the garnishing creditor that the filing took place. The creditor then has to notify the sheriff who in turn notifies the employer to stop withholding. This process can take some time, so it may not immediately stop an existing garnishment. Thus, it might be a good idea for people to file a Claim of Exemption form detailing their income and expenses in order to show the judge that the garnishment is not affordable.

It is possible for people to protect their wages from creditor garnishment through filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This places a stay on all collection actions upon filing, including most garnishments. Wage garnishments for back taxes or for unpaid child support will not be lifted, however. Those who have creditors garnishing their wages may benefit by speaking with a bankruptcy attorney to get advice about how to deal with the situation.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "How to Protect Yourself From Wages Being Garnished From Your Check", Laura Agadoni, October 29, 2014

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