Part 1. I stopped paying my bills. Can my creditor garnish my wages immediately?
Short answer: No. A creditor must first sue you in court and get a judgment against you before they can issue a garnishment to your bank or your employer.
It’s a common misconception among consumers that I speak to, that as soon as they stop paying a debt, that their paycheck or bank account can automatically be garnished by a creditor. While a creditor might scare you into believing that you must make a payment or else your next check will be garnished; the truth is that they cannot do this without first getting a judgment against you in Court.
What does this mean? The creditor must first file a lawsuit in court against you, serve you with that lawsuit and then go through the court system to get a judgment against you. Once they have done all of that, then they need to find out where you bank or where you work. Assuming they have (1) gotten a judgment in court; and (2) found out where you bank or work, then they can send a garnishment to your bank or employer. This process at the absolute quickest speed would take 2-3 months.
The bottom line is that, without a judgment, your creditors cannot issue a garnishment. It’s as simple as that.
You might ask, what about when your debt is transferred to a collection agency? The answer is still no; not until they go through the courts to sue you and get a judgment against you.
Please note that for almost any rule there is always an exception. It’s important to keep in mind that when you owe money to a government agency, such as the Internal Revenue Service or your state taxing agency, they do not have to sue you first. They can immediately contact your employer to start garnishing your wages.
If you can’t keep up with your bills, have stopped paying bills, have been served with a lawsuit or even a garnishment, or are not sure what kind of debt that you owe, then you should consult with an attorney about your options. The sooner that you consult with an attorney, the better positioned you are to protect yourself from the harsh reality of a bank or a wage garnishment.
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The information and materials provided in this article have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and this law firm. If you believe you have a legal case or claim, you should contact an attorney promptly; strict time limitations may apply to your case or claim.