Here on my blog I have written nearly 350 articles on debt, bankruptcy, and debt collection lawsuits, but day in and day out the number one thing people read out of all of my articles are those on wage garnishment.
Wage garnishment is a little different in each state and this article will focus on the wage garnishment process in Arizona.
While there is no good time to have your wages garnished it seems that many people get hit at the worst possible time. In Arizona once a creditor has sued you and has a judgment against you they can garnish up to 25% of each paycheck. If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck losing a full quarter of your pay will be absolutely devastating.
In this article I want to discuss how the garnishment happens and what you can do to resolve it.
How a Debt Turns Into a Wage Garnishment in Arizona
Generally creditors can’t do a whole lot to you if you don’t pay other than damage your credit score and harass you. However, if a creditor such as a credit card company or a medical provider decides to sue you it is officially time to take action.
The reason being is if a creditor sues you and obtains a judgment against you they can then apply to the court for what is known as a Writ of Garnishment. Once the creditor has the Writ of Garnishment they can serve this on your employer and your employer must start taking 25% of your pay out of your paycheck. This starts as soon as the Writ of Garnishment is served.
Your Right to Object
After the Writ of Garnishment has been served you will be notified of the garnishment and be given an opportunity to object if you believe that the judgment is not valid or if you have some other legal reason that you believe the creditor should not be permitted to take your pay.
It is important to understand that even though you have the right to object your employer must immediately start withholding your pay. Your employer will take the money out of your check and set it aside. And then when the time period for you to object has passed the creditor can ask the court to allow the money that has been withheld to be transferred to them.
What if I can’t Afford to Have My Wages Garnished?
For many losing 25% of a paycheck is going to mean the difference between having a roof over their head and being homeless. If you find yourself with a wage garnishment and your situation is dire you can object to the garnishment through the court and ask the judge to reduce the amount that your creditors are permitted to take out of your check.
In Arizona they can reduce it down from 25% to 15% of your pay. The law in Arizona does not allow them to reduce it any lower than 15% – and to get it down to 15% you are going to have to show the court that the 25% garnishment is causing a true hardship on you and your family.
What if I Can’t Afford the 15%
If losing any amount is going to be devastating for your family you will need to look into options on getting rid of the underlying judgment. You really have three options:
Bankruptcy Will Stop Wage Garnishment
Filing for bankruptcy will stop your wage garnishment immediately. Sometimes I will work with clients to file an emergency bankruptcy filing that allows you to file your case in as short as one day in order to make sure that your wages aren’t garnished any further.
Bankruptcy will not only eliminate the debt associated with your wage garnishment but will eliminate most of your other unsecured debts as well.
It is important to note that if you have been enduring a wage garnishment and finally decide to file for bankruptcy the money that has already been garnished will not be returned to you. Sometimes a bankruptcy trustee is able to recoup some of the money garnished but if they are able to do so they will take the money and distribute it out to all of your creditors.
If you don’t need to file bankruptcy or simply don’t want to file for bankruptcy then another option is debt settlement. Debt settlement is where you offer to pay the creditor an amount usually less than what they are claiming is owed.
The difficulty with debt settlement after a wage garnishment is in place is that you have lost most of the leverage you need to get a good settlement. At this point your creditor has already taken the step of suing you, obtaining a judgment against you, and now has a wage garnishment in place. They have put forth all the time, effort, and money in order to collect.
Further, they can just do nothing else and so long as you remain on the job they are going to get paid. Because of this any settlement at this stage will likely be for an amount near the total judgment. You can get a discount by paying it in a lump sum and paying it quickly, but don’t expect too much of a discount or any type of payment plan at this point.
Get the Judgment Vacated
Another option is to ask the court to vacate the judgment that was entered against you. You must have a legal reason for asking the judge to vacate the judgment. There must have been something in appropriate about the way the judgment was entered or the way that the creditor served you (or didn’t serve you).
Honestly, this is one of the more difficult ways to go. Judges like finality. They don’t like revisiting something that was done months or years ago. But if you have a strong legal basis for getting the judgment set aside you could be successful.
Wage garnishment is no fun at all. But having an understanding of what it is, what Arizona wage garnishment process is, and what you can do about it can reduce some of the stress.
Feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email if you want to discuss different strategies on how to handle your wage garnishment.
Photo Credit: Josh Kenzer
Schedule a Free Consultation!
John Skiba, Esq.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your debt problem and help you put together a game plan to eliminate your debt once and for all. Give us a call at (480) 420-4028