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How Can I Stop a Wage Garnishment Immediately? 

Atchley Law Firm, PLC May 7, 2024

Gavel on top of purse in tableAre you working hard to provide for your family, but your paycheck is shrinking due to wage garnishment?  

Seeing someone else dip their hands into your hard-earned money can be distressing and frustrating. Without a complete paycheck, you might struggle financially and feel the need to use credit cards or take out loans to pay bills and feed your family. This can cause you to fall into the same cycle of debt, making your financial situation even worse.   

Filing for bankruptcy is one of the most effective ways to stop a wage garnishment immediately and prevent your earnings from vanishing before you even see them. At Atchley Law Firm, PLC, we help clients seek solutions to their financial struggles.  

Our wage garnishment attorney in Mesa, Arizona, can provide you with the guidance and support you need to help you get back on track financially. We also serve clients throughout Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, and Phoenix Metro Area.  

What Is Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment is a court-ordered process that allows creditors to collect unpaid debts by withholding a portion of the debtor’s earnings. Essentially, wage garnishment is an automatic income withholding order because a portion of your money is automatically redirected to a creditor to pay your debt each pay period.  

How Can a Creditor Get Wage Garnishment?  

When you have debt with a creditor and are not making payments on your debt, your creditor can file a lawsuit against you as a debt collection measure. If the creditor wins the lawsuit, the court may issue an order to take a portion of money out of your paychecks to satisfy the debt. When this happens, your employer will be ordered to withhold a specified percentage of your wages and send it to the creditor until your debt is paid off or you find a way to stop a wage garnishment.   

When Does Wage Garnishment Happen? 

You're at risk of having a creditor file a lawsuit against you and seek a wage garnishment when you get behind on debt. However, creditors often see wage garnishment as a last resort and file lawsuits against debtors only when they believe there is no other way to collect unpaid debts. Typically, debt collectors send multiple warnings to the debtor before seeking to garnish their wages.  

How Much of Your Wages Can Be Garnished in Arizona? 

In Arizona, the garnishment of the debtor’s wages cannot exceed the lesser of:  

  • 10% of their disposable earnings for the given week; or  

  • The amount by which their disposable earnings for the given week surpass 60 times the highest applicable minimum wage.  

According to the Arizona Judicial Branch, the state’s voters approved Proposition 209 to change the limits on wage garnishment in 2022, with the changes taking effect on Dec. 5, 2022. Previously, creditors could garnish the lesser of 25% of the debtor’s disposable earnings or 30 times the federal minimum wage. 

Ways to Stop a Wage Garnishment Without Filing for Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy may be the most effective and fastest way to stop a wage garnishment immediately due to an “automatic stay,” which forces the creditors to stop all collection actions.  

However, if you consider declaring bankruptcy as a last resort, you may try other potential ways to stop your wages from being garnished (though many of them may not provide immediate relief):  

  • Pay off the debt. If you can find a way to get some cash to settle the debt (e.g., asking your family members or friends for help), you could get rid of the wage garnishment once and for all. However, when the financial situation is bad enough, paying off the debt may not be a viable option.  

  • Work out a payment plan with the creditor or debt collector. Sometimes, it may be possible to agree on a payment plan with the creditor or debt collector (if your case has been redirected) that does not involve a wage garnishment.  

  • Challenge the court order. The debtor may also be able to challenge the wage garnishment if there are legal grounds to do so. For example, it may be possible to challenge the court order and avoid a wage garnishment if the amount of debt specified in the order is incorrect.  

  • Make an exemption claim. Claiming that some or all of your income is exempt from being garnished is another way to stop the garnishment or reduce the amount being subject to debt collection. Retirement, disability, Social Security, child support, alimony, and certain other types of income are generally exempt from being garnished.  

If none of these methods are available to you or you are looking for immediate and fool-proof solutions, you may need to consider filing for bankruptcy to trigger an automatic stay.  

Filing for Bankruptcy as an Immediate Remedy to a Wage Garnishment

Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 can stop wage garnishment immediately. In fact, declaring bankruptcy can prevent debtors from trying to collect debts through other means as well. What happens to your debts once you file for bankruptcy depends on the chapter you choose: 

  1. Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your debts qualify for Chapter 7, all wage garnishments will be terminated immediately and permanently.  

  1. Chapter 13 bankruptcy. While filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 stops wage garnishment, you will still be required to repay your creditors under a repayment plan.  

If you have any non-dischargeable debt (e.g., most student loans, alimony, child support, and most federal, state, and local taxes), creditors will continue to collect it even after filing for bankruptcy.  

If your wages have been garnished in excess of $600, you may be able to recover back some of the money garnished within 90 days prior to filing for bankruptcy.  

Facing a Wage Garnishment? Contact Atchley Law Firm, PLC, to Get Help

When your wages are being garnished, it can feel like you have lost control of your finances and your financial stability is spiraling out of control.  

Fortunately, you can avoid a wage garnishment, or stop one if the court has already issued an order, by exploring your debt relief options like filing for bankruptcy. Our attorney at Atchley Law Firm, PLC, has helped countless individuals and families in Mesa and throughout Arizona to get relief from garnished wages and take steps toward financial freedom.  

If you’re ready to discuss how to avoid or stop a wage garnishment, schedule a case evaluation with our attorney.