Wage Garnishment Lawyer in Richmond
Fighting to Reduce or Eliminate Wage Garnishment for Richmond Clients
Are your bills piling up with no end in sight? Are you unable to pay your debt and getting harassed by creditors as a result? Creditors and government agencies may resort to wage garnishment to pay your debts. For context, garnishment means any legal or equitable procedure in which an individual’s earnings are withheld for the payment of any debt. It is essentially a debt collection tool.
Given the nature and impacts of garnishment, creditors or government agencies must first obtain a court order that requires an employer to withhold a certain amount of the debtor’s wages. That amount will be paid directly to the court, which then gives it to the creditor.
Ironically, wage garnishment can make it harder for you to pay your debt, despite its purpose being to get your debts paid off as quickly as possible. Whether you’re behind on child support, lost your job, or cannot pay your healthcare bills, our Richmond wage garnishment attorney can help defend you from these harmful actions. Our team at Flores Law PLLC strives to help stop garnishments, get your garnished money back, unfreeze your bank accounts, and more.
To schedule your consultation and learn how we can help you, contact us online or at (804) 315-0810!
How Much Money Can be Garnished from Your Paycheck?
In Virginia, creditors can take up to 25% of your gross paycheck each pay period OR the amount by which your disposable earnings exceed 40 times the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour). For further context, “disposable earnings” are the remaining earnings you have after the following deductions have been made:
- Federal income tax withholding deductions
- Federal social security tax deductions
- State and city withholding deductions
High interest may also accrue while your wages are garnished, making it even more difficult to pay off your debt. Garnishment and high interest combined can be a recipe for disaster. To better clarify what garnishment looks like in Virginia, we explain the maximum amounts of disposable earnings that may be garnished per pay period for your ordinary debt below:
- Weekly pay period: NO wages may be garnished if your disposable earnings total $290 (40 x the federal minimum wage) or LESS. If your weekly wages total at least $290, up to 25% of your paycheck can be garnished.
- Bi-weekly pay period: If you earn $580 (40 x 2 weeks x federal minimum wage) or LESS every two weeks, NONE of your wages can be garnished. If you earn at least $580 every two weeks, up to 25% of your bi-weekly wages can be garnished.
- Semi-monthly pay period: NONE of your wages can be garnished if you earn $628.33 (40 x 2.16665 weeks x federal hourly minimum) or LESS twice a month. If you earn at least that amount, a maximum of 25% of your semimonthly earnings can be garnished.
- Monthly pay period: Your monthly wages can ONLY be garnished if you earn at least $1,256.66 each month.
As you can see, you must earn a certain amount of disposable income per pay period to avoid garnishment. If you meet the minimum threshold for garnishment, however, up to 25% of your wages will be garnished.
When Can My Wages be Garnished?
Creditors cannot just decide to garnish your wages and go forward with it. They must first file a lawsuit in court, win, and obtain a money judgment, which is a legal court order stating that you owe money to the creditor. Some exceptions to this rule include:
- You have unpaid income taxes
- You are behind or child support or arrearages
- You defaulted on your student loans
Can a Garnishment Freeze Your Bank Account?
Creditors may temporarily freeze your bank accounts to garnish your funds. They must first get a court order before seizing money from any of your bank accounts to repay a judgment debt, though. Fortunately, federal law protects certain benefits from garnishment, such as Social Security, SSI, workers’ compensation, and VA benefits deposited within the last two months of garnishment. If you would like to protect these benefits that were deposited more than two months beforehand, you may need to fill out paperwork and potentially go to court with your lawyer.
Once a creditor gets court approval to freeze your bank account, your bank will typically freeze the funds in your account thereafter. You may discover this when you attempt to withdraw money, write a check, or use your debit card, which is why it’s best to be proactive and claim the exact funds that you want protected from seizure. If you do not object to the garnishment by filing a Garnishment Exemption Claim Form in time, you could lose exempt benefits in your bank account. But if you successfully claim your exemptions, your bank should unfreeze your account.
With this in mind, the bottom line is you need an attorney as soon as your bank account gets “frozen” by creditors. Our attorney at Flores Law PLLC can work with your bank to help unfreeze your account and get your garnished money back. With such a short timeline and limited opportunities to unfreeze your bank account, you need our experienced attorney to help expedite and streamline the process for you.
How to Avoid Wage Garnishment
Wage garnishment can feel like a never-ending nightmare, but it doesn’t have to. With the help of our experienced wage garnishment lawyer in Richmond, we can look for ways to help manage your situation as efficiently as possible. Common strategies people use to avoid garnishment include:
Pay the debt in full: You can fully pay off your debt with a lump sum payment and avoid garnishment.
Challenge the garnishment: When the creditor files a lawsuit against you and wins, you and your employer will be notified of the garnishment order. The notice will contain instructions on how to challenge/object to the garnishment order, which you can act upon with the help of your lawyer.
Negotiate a payment plan: Once the creditor obtains a judgment against you, you may receive a “demand letter” as a final warning before the garnishment goes into effect. If and when this happens to you, you should work with your lawyer to negotiate a payment plan with the creditor.
Prove financial hardship: If you are at risk of an IRS garnishment, which is notoriously extreme, you may be relieved of this type of garnishment if you prove financial hardship. In some cases, the IRS may permit you to enter into a payment plan.
File for bankruptcy: Bankruptcy is usually the most promising solution to immediately stopping garnishment, repossession, foreclosures, and more. Although individuals tend to believe bankruptcy is a “bad thing,” we urge you to think of it as a powerful solution for financial relief. The moment you file for bankruptcy, creditors are ordered to stop their collection activities immediately, and can be ordered to return any garnished wages to you and unfreeze any garnished bank accounts.
These options are most useful when you retain a wage garnishment attorney. Hiring a lawyer is the most practical way to help avoid wage garnishment, as they have the experience, insights, and resources needed to give you the best possible resolutions to your financial problems. Allow Flores Law PLLC to help you navigate the process, work to unfreeze your bank accounts, identify effective debt resolutions, and champion your best interests every step of the way. Your fight is our fight!
To schedule a consultation with our Richmond wage garnishment attorney, get in touch with us online or at (804) 315-0810!
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