Question: I recently found out that there is a judgment against me. They are attempting to garnish my wages. How do I fight this?
A: There are basically four options if you want to fight a wage garnishment.
1. You can attempt to reduce or eliminate the garnishment, by filing a Claim of Exemption and a financial statement with the Sheriff’s Department. Note that it may not be your local Sheriff’s Department. On the garnishment form, you will see an indication as to which Sheriff’s department it is. This is based on where your employer is headquartered. You can either claim all of your wages exempt or agree to have a lesser amount withheld from your check. If the judgment creditor does not object, then then the garnishment will be changed in accordance with your claim form. If the creditor objects, the court will schedule a hearing and determine how much should be withheld from your check. Remember, a judgment accrues interest at 10% per year so if you are having your money garnished and it is less than 10% of the judgment amount, you are going to owe more money every year despite your payments.
2. You may be able to have the judgment set aside. You will need a reason and you must file a motion or an appeal. This should be done with an attorney. If you were served with the lawsuit, you typically only have 6 months to set aside the judgment. If you were never served with the lawsuit, and you can prove it, you have up to 2 years to set aside the judgment. (I have filed motions to set aside defaults obtained by CIR Law Offices, Legal Recovery Law Offices, Midland Funding, Nelson & Kennard, Persolve, and other debt collectors.)
3. You can consider bankruptcy. This would stay, or stop, the garnishment. Bankruptcy stops all state court proceedings.
4. You can call the creditor and attempt to negotiate the garnishment amount. This may work, but be careful and make sure you get any agreement in writing.
A wage garnishment is not the end of the road for you. You do have options. You should consult with an attorney before deciding which option is right for you.