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What is a Garnishment? Can Bankruptcy Stop a Garnishment?

In my experience, there are three common reasons that people seek out an emergency bankruptcy lawyer: foreclosure, repossession and garnishment.

See, the old adage ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ is not as easy to stomach when you are being stripped of personal assets against your will. Today, I plan on shedding a little light on garnishments.

A garnishment is a means by which a person or business can satisfy a monetary claim against an individual by collection through a third party.

Make Sense? I didn’t think so. In other words, if a creditor succeeds in obtaining a monetary judgment against you, they have the option of collecting that money through your employer or bank. Garnishments result in a percentage of your paycheck or bank accounts being turned over to the judgment holder.

The good news is that there are several steps a creditor must take in order to legally garnish your wages or bank accounts. First, the creditor must first obtain a judgment against you. This process takes some time, and requires that you receive notice. Therefore, it is often the first sign that you may be at risk for a garnishment.

Once a creditor has obtained a judgment against you, they must then obtain a court order for garnishment. This is also known as a writ of garnishment. Again, this process takes some time and you will be informed of any impending garnishment.

The state of Arizona allows judgment holders to collect via two different types of garnishment. The first allows the garnishment of wages, which means that a portion of your paycheck will be withheld by your payroll department and paid to he judgment holder. The second involves the garnishment of personal property held by a third party. This may sound confusing, but commonly refers to funds held in a bank account.

Many potential bankruptcy debtors are anxious as to how much money a creditor can legally garnish from their account. And rightfully so, as they have bills to pay and family to provide for. The good news is that federal law limits the amount that can be garnished to the lesser of the following:

(1)    25 per centum of disposable earnings for that week, or

(2)    The amount by which his disposable earnings for that week exceed thirty times the Federal minimum hourly wage.

Note that in cases involving past-due support payments relating to a domestic obligation, the maximum garnishment amounts differ slightly:

(1)    If the person who owes money supports a spouse or dependent child, other than a spouse or child for whom the support order is issued, then garnishment is restricted to a maximum of 50% of disposable earnings for the week.

(2)    If the person who owes money does not support a spouse or dependent child described above then garnishment is restricted to a maximum of 60 % of disposable earnings for the week.

For bank accounts, another common source of garnishment, you are allowed to garnish any money in the bank account that exceeds $150.00 (See: A.R.S. §12-1596(C))

Despite these protections on maximum allowable garnishments, those struggling with debt are often unable to cope with any garnishment. I know that my financial situation would change dramatically if my income was suddenly decreased by 25%. If you are currently struggling with a garnishment, it may be beneficial to talk with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. Remember, filing bankruptcy will stop an ongoing garnishment and can completely eliminate judgments and other debts.

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