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Bankruptcy Advocate Skilled at Stopping California Wage Garnishments

Trusted Los Angeles wage garnishment lawyer stands up for debtors’ rights

One of the most potent remedies creditors use to collect is wage garnishment, a court or government agency order that requires employers to withhold a portion of the debtor’s wages and send that amount directly to your creditor. Fortunately, federal and California laws limit the ways that creditors can use that remedy. At the Law Offices of Michael Jay Berger, I make sure that your rights as a debtor are respected and that you are not subjected to illegal or abusive garnishment methods. I also pursue appropriate legal protections. All forms of bankruptcy stop garnishments. If filed before the money has been sent to the creditor, I can get the garnished funds back for the debtor.

How the law limits creditors’ rights to garnish

For most types of debt, the creditor cannot garnish your wages until it sues you for the debt, obtains a judgment against you in court and secures a garnishment order. Federal and state laws limit the wages that may be garnished to your disposable earnings — the amount left in your paycheck after your employer takes out taxes and other required deductions. Under California law, creditors may garnish whichever of these two amounts is less:

  • 25 percent of your disposable earnings or
  • The amount by which your disposable earnings that exceeds 40 times the state minimum wage.

Under federal law, which might apply to assets outside California, creditors may garnish whichever of these two amounts is less:

  • 25 percent of your disposable earnings or
  • The amount by which your disposable earnings that exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage.

This means that California law is more generous to the debtor wage law than is federal law. In fact, your disposable earnings might be low enough that creditors may not garnish your wages at all.

Wage garnishments without court judgments

Three types of debt may be garnished from your wages without a court order, but each of them has its own limitations on the amounts creditors can go after. They are:

  • Taxes – The federal government may usually garnish your disposable earnings without a court order if you owe back taxes. The amount varies and can run as high as 70 percent. State and local governments in California may garnish up to 25 percent of your wages.
  • Child support – All orders for child support automatically include orders for wage garnishment, limited to 50 to 60 percent of your disposable earnings, depending on whether or not you have other dependents not covered by the order. If child support is in arrears for at least 12 months, the court may order the defaulting parent to pay an additional 5 percent more of his or her disposable earnings.
  • Student loans – If you default on student loans, the U.S. Department of Education may issue an order to garnish up to 15 percent of your disposable earnings, but not more than 30 times the minimum wage.

How bankruptcy can help forestall garnishment

When you file for bankruptcy, the court imposes an automatic stay that stops all or most types of garnishment. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the automatic stay will not affect garnishments for payment of domestic support obligations, such as child support or alimony, but will stop all other types. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the automatic stay will stop all wage garnishment, although you will be required to continue making payments on your debts. If you have previously abused the bankruptcy system, however, you might not be entitled to an automatic stay.

Contact a certified bankruptcy attorney in California to stop wage garnishment

I am a Certified Specialist in Bankruptcy and adept ensuring my clients are fully advised of their rights and protected against creditors’ misuse of the wage garnishment remedy. I can also explore legal remedies for reducing or stopping garnishments. Call the Law Offices of Michael Jay Berger at 310-271-6223 or contact us online to schedule a bankruptcy consultation at my Los Angeles office.

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