When bills go unpaid for an extended period of time, creditors are allowed to collect on unpaid debts by enacting a wage garnishment. This can quickly escalate an already stressful financial situation. Fortunately, there’s a way you can stop wage garnishment once it starts.
Whether your wages are already being garnished, or you fear that they will be soon, it’s possible to find the protection you need by filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Upon filing, an automatic stay will go into effect that prohibits creditors from continuing collection actions — wage garnishment included.
What is Wage Garnishment?
Wage garnishment is a court-ordered monetary judgment sent to your employer(s) that requires them to withhold a portion of your paycheck in order to repay creditors. Different types of debt carry different garnishment rules.
The debts that can be settled through wage garnishment include credit cards, loans, repossession deficiencies, student loans, taxes, child support, and any other debts that have resulted in a collections lawsuit judgment against you. With the exception of child support, student loans, and tax-related cases, a creditor can’t garnish your wages without successfully suing you first and obtaining a judgment.
Wage Garnishment Limits in Tennessee
In the state of Tennessee, wage garnishment laws limit the amount of money that creditors can garnish from your paycheck. For instance, you can protect additional income if you support dependent children that live in Tennessee. The purpose of this limit is so that you have enough leftover income to pay for your living expenses. Even if you have multiple garnishments, the total amount that can be garnished in Tennessee is capped at 25%, and only one garnishment can attach to your wages at a time.
While wage garnishment laws in Tennessee protect the same amount of income as federal garnishment laws (25%), there are some added protections. Tennessee Code Ann. § 26-2-106 dictates the maximum amount that a creditor can garnish from your wages. This is either 25% of your weekly disposable earnings or your weekly disposable earnings that exceed 30x the minimum hourly wage. Disposable earnings are the remaining wages after your employer has made legally mandated deductions.
Chapter 7, Chapter 13, and the Automatic Stay
Upon filing of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, an automatic stay begins providing immediate protection from imposing creditors. Once enacted, creditors or legally prohibited from pursuing collection activity against you for the remainder of your bankruptcy proceedings. However, child support collections are not protected under the automatic stay because they are a non-dischargeable priority debt.
If creditors are not alerted in time to stop the wage garnishment, you can notify your employer of the bankruptcy to ensure that no wages are garnished.
How Will Your Employer Know to Stop the Garnishment?
When filing for bankruptcy, you will need to provide the court trustee with a list of creditors and their contact information. The court will notify your creditors that you have filed for bankruptcy and all that all collection activities, including wage garnishment, must stop.
If the garnishment process has already begun, you or your attorney can speed the suspension process by notifying your creditors directly about the bankruptcy petition.
What Happens When Your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case Ends?
The automatic stay that protects you from wage garnishment ends when your bankruptcy case does. One of the biggest benefits of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that it discharges eligible debts. This means that debts discharged in your case will no longer be owed to creditors, therefore, no longer subject to garnishment.
It is advisable that you enlist the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney before making any decisions that will impact your financial future.
Expert Bankruptcy Attorneys in Middle Tennessee
Flexer Law has been serving the legal needs of Middle Tennessee residents since 1981. We offer free bankruptcy consultations and will address the details of your unique situation. One of our expert attorneys will discuss your options to stop wage garnishment with or without bankruptcy.
Regardless of your financial situation, we will guide you through the bankruptcy filing process with confidence. If you are worried about the cost of hiring an attorney, know that we offer payment plans to ease the burden.