What Can You Do to Prevent Your Paycheck from Being Garnished?

Unpaid debts don't simply go away when you stop paying. Creditors can—and usually will—come after the money you owe any way that they can. One of those ways is through garnishment of your wages.

Garnishment is a method through which creditors use a court order to take money directly from a debtor's paycheck. Naturally, if you're already struggling with your bills and your debts, this is something that you want to avoid.

So, what can you do? Follow these tips:

1. Don't assume that your money is ever safe.

Sometimes debtors assume that they're safe because they've recently switched jobs or don't have any large assets. However, creditors can get a court order that will track you down from employer to employer. They can also go after any joint accounts that you have with your spouse—even if your spouse doesn't owe the debt.

2. Work out an agreement with your creditors.

You may be able to hold your creditors off for a while by simply staying in touch. In general, creditors would rather work directly with you than go through the trouble (and additional expense) of pursuing you through court. Attempt to work out a partial payment plan or settlement agreement if possible.

3. Respond promptly to any notice of a hearing.

If your creditors take you to court, don't ignore the summons—even if you know that you have no means of paying the debt. If you do not show up to a hearing, you will automatically be subject to a default judgment going forward and you'll lose your right to ask the court for additional relief. This could be true even if the debt is unfair for some reason.

4. Ask the court for an exemption.

You may be able to file a claim of exemption with the court, showing that you simply do not have the financial means to repay the debt right now for whatever reason. This is particularly useful if you've recently lost a better-paying job, had your hours reduced, or gone on unemployment. Similarly, something like an illness in the family or a spouse's job loss would also support your request for an exemption.

5. Consider bankruptcy.

If you have no other options and the debt is insurmountable, consider filing for bankruptcy protection. Bankruptcy can help you avoid wage garnishments and a host of other negative actions by your creditors.

For more information on garnishment law, talk to a company like Stuart J Sinsheimer Attorney at Law