Wage garnishment is perhaps one of the most difficult financial stresses to deal with. You work hard every day to earn your paycheck, but then a Missouri or Illinois court tells your employer that they have to withhold some of your hard-earned money and send it to your creditors.
For your creditors, that means they get at least part of what they’re owed. But for you and your family, it can mean struggling to pay the bills or even put food on the table.
Here’s the good news: Bankruptcy can stop garnishments. In fact, this is one of the top reasons why people file bankruptcy. But it’s not the only benefit of bankruptcy if you’re in a difficult financial situation. Bankruptcy can put a stop to many other debt collection actions that have been making your daily life a nightmare.
Read on to learn more about wage garnishment in Illinois and Missouri and how bankruptcy can STOP garnishment and various other problems.
About Wage Garnishment
Wage garnishment to repay debts of all kinds is allowed at the federal level, but states can set their own rules. The federal wage garnishment rules state that employers can withhold no more than 25 percent of your weekly earnings if you make more than 30 hours’ worth of the current federal minimum wage.
But that rule only applies to debts for which a creditor filed a successful lawsuit against you, which resulted in a court judgment. For back taxes, defaulted student loans, and child support, the limits are different.
Wage Garnishment in Illinois
Illinois has set different rules for wage garnishment. In Illinois, if a creditor wins a court judgment against you, the maximum your employer can garnish from your weekly earnings is either 15 percent of your earnings or the amount left over after you deduct 45 hours’ worth of Illinois’ minimum wage.
By law, your employer has to deduct the lower amount of those two figures. So, if your weekly pay is $1,000, 15 percent of that would be $150 and the amount remaining after deducting 45 hours’ worth of Illinois’ $11 hourly minimum wage would be $505 (although the latter calculation would actually apply to your take-home pay instead of your gross pay). Because they have to choose the lower number, the creditor could garnish up to $150 of your weekly wages.
Wage Garnishment in Missouri
Like Illinois, Missouri sets its own limits for wage garnishment. Missouri’s wage garnishment rules apply to your disposable earnings — those left over after taxes and required deductions. With a court judgment, creditors can deduct the lower of the following from your weekly disposable earnings:
- 10 percent for heads of household who live in Missouri or 25 percent for everyone else
- The amount left over after you subtract 30 hours’ worth of the federal minimum wage
Let’s give that a real-world example. If you are not a head of a household and your weekly disposable earnings are $1,000, 25 percent of your earnings would be $250 and the amount left over after subtracting 30 hours’ worth of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would be $782.50. In this case, the creditor would be able to garnish the lower of the two numbers — so, $250 per week.
How Does Bankruptcy Stop Wage Garnishment?
As you can see in the Missouri and Illinois examples above, wage garnishment can take a significant amount of your weekly earnings, making your already-difficult financial situation even harder. But bankruptcy can put a stop to that.
How, exactly, does bankruptcy stop wage garnishment? It’s all about the automatic stay. When you file bankruptcy, an injunction that stops creditors from taking debt-collection action against you is issued.
That injunction is called the automatic stay, and it remains in force until your bankruptcy case is resolved. That means filing bankruptcy can stop wage garnishment dead in its tracks. However, the notice of your pending bankruptcy case may not reach your employer immediately. That’s why it can be helpful to have an attorney on your side to notify your employer so you don’t miss out on any more of your hard-earned money than you have to.
After your bankruptcy case is resolved, your creditors won’t be able to resume wage garnishments on any of the debts that the bankruptcy discharged. However, they may be able to resume wage garnishments for debts that did not qualify to be discharged in the bankruptcy case.
Are There Other Ways to Stop Wage Garnishment?
Bankruptcy may be the most reliable way to stop wage garnishment, but it’s not the only way. In some cases, you may have an alternative to bankruptcy for stopping garnishments.
For example, you may be able to demonstrate to the court that you actually need more of your paycheck that you are currently getting in order to survive. Also, if it appears that creditors are taking more out of your pay than they are legally allowed to, you may be able to get the garnished amount adjusted.
Of course, the other alternative is to pay back your debts in full, but that is rarely a viable solution for most people who are dealing with wage garnishment.
Does Bankruptcy Stop All Kinds of Wage Garnishment?
Bankruptcy doesn’t always stop wage garnishments for all types of debts. If you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, all wage garnishments will be stopped while your case is pending. However, if you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may not be off the hook for wage garnishments related to child support or alimony.
Problems You Can STOP by Filing Bankruptcy
The automatic stay that comes after you file bankruptcy in Illinois or Missouri immediately puts a stop to a ton of money and debt problems you may be facing. And a successful bankruptcy case can prevent many other financial problems from becoming worse.
Here’s a look at what filing bankruptcy can STOP.
After a creditor receives a judgment from a court, the creditor can seek to collect shortly thereafter by issuing a court order to your employer to automatically withhold a certain amount from each paycheck until it is paid in full while interest accrues. A bankruptcy can STOP this as soon as your case is filed, which could be before your next paycheck is garnished.
Bank Account Garnishments
With a court judgment, a creditor can also see to it that the funds currently held in your bank accounts are frozen and freeze any additional funds that get deposited in the accounts, including paychecks. These funds are then turned over to the creditor as payment toward the debt you owe. A bankruptcy can STOP this if your case is filed before the bank account is frozen.
Harassing Phone Calls
Anyone who is past due on a debt (including car loans, house payment, credit cards, etc.) begins to receive countless phone calls at all times of the day making very harmful, if not downright illegal, statements to coerce you into making any form of payment on your debt. A bankruptcy can STOP this as soon as your case is filed and can provide us a process to sue your creditors if they refuse to stop.
Seriously, does anyone like debt collectors? Ironically, our firm has represented debt collectors, and even they do not like other debt collectors. The good news is that a bankruptcy can STOP these debt collectors in their tracks (and with their big mouths wide open) and provide a means to sue them if they refuse to leave you alone. And trust us — we love to sue arrogant and manipulative debt collectors who use illegal tactics to harm our clients.
Credit Card Debt
Sometimes, credit card debt becomes impossible to manage due to a loss of income or outrageous interest rates. It can take 10 to 15 years to pay off your existing credit cards. Whatever the reason you find yourself in credit card debt, bankruptcy can put a STOP to your credit card debt and high interest accumulation by eliminating all or a portion of the credit card balances.
Sometimes, medical bills pile up because you have no health insurance, inadequate insurance coverage, or unexpected and emergency medical care, all of which can make it nearly impossible to pay off or even recover from health problems. No matter the story behind your medical debt, bankruptcy can put a STOP to your medical debts and is a highly acceptable and common reason for filing bankruptcy.
In some situations, the financial stress is so great that some families are struggling to pay all bills that become due and are unable to pay the necessities, such as the electric bill. If an electric bill becomes past due, you may get a shutoff notice that includes a deadline. By filing a bankruptcy petition before the shutoff date, we can STOP the utility from being shut off and eliminate the past due amount in bankruptcy; however, a security deposit will be required to be paid immediately. But from there, we can then file a motion with the court to grant you an additional 90 days to pay the deposit.
Old Past Due Rent
When the financial problems start stacking up, rent becomes harder and harder to pay each month. Unfortunately, landlords often turn into aggressive debt collectors and may even turn your case over to collections. Dealing with harassment from a landlord or debt collector for overdue rent makes your life all the harder while you are trying to set your financial situation straight. You can probably guess what we’re going to say here: Bankruptcy can STOP a landlord or debt collector from collecting past due rent.
Whether you suspect that your vehicle is about to be repossessed or the repossession has already happened, filing bankruptcy can STOP the repossession action and get your car back. Filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy can force a creditor to return your car to you, and a trusted bankruptcy lawyer can help you change the terms of your loan so you can pay it back under better conditions. To learn more about bankruptcy and vehicle repossessions, click here.
When you’re facing the threat of foreclosure, it can feel like your world is falling apart. And in some ways, it is — your home may be taken from you. But in many situations, filing bankruptcy can STOP foreclosure on your home and keep you and your family where you belong. To learn more about bankruptcy and home foreclosures, click here.
High Car Payments
When your financial situation changes for the worse, what used to be a perfectly reasonable monthly car payment can start to feel impossible to pay. That creates a domino effect that can lead to vehicle repossession. However, if you file bankruptcy in time and work with a lawyer who knows how to get the terms of your vehicle loan changed, you can STOP the damage and change the story.
Unexpected income, withholding miscalculations, and failing to file your taxes can build up to become an enormous financial problem — one that feels impossible to solve. Bankruptcy may not be able to get tax debt discharged in most situations, but it can put a STOP to the fear and anxiety and create better conditions under which to get caught up on your taxes. To learn more about bankruptcy and taxes, click here.
Need to Stop Garnishments? Bankruptcy Can Help
Can bankruptcy stop garnishments? Absolutely. But it can stop a lot more than that. From high car payments and past due rent to tax problems and foreclosures, bankruptcy can make a lot of financial wrongs right again.
Bankruptcy isn’t the right choice for everyone, but for some Missouri and Illinois families, it is a beacon of light on the horizon when they are lost at sea. At A Bankruptcy Law Firm, LLC, we’re proud to help families reach that better financial future. If you have questions about garnishments or bankruptcy, please call us at (800) 7-BENSON to set up a free bankruptcy consultation.
Important Disclaimer: The information discussed above and throughout this website should not be relied upon to make any decisions without first speaking to a bankruptcy attorney. There are many intricate rules of law governing bankruptcy with many exceptions to the general rules that could change the advice given by an attorney based on the differing facts in each person’s special set of circumstances. THEREFORE, it is important to discuss any information contained in this website with one of our attorneys before taking any action or refraining from taking any action.