Does a bankruptcy filing stop a wage garnishment?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 30, 2020

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A bankruptcy can stop a wage garnishment, but not under every circumstance. When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect mandating that all collections activities against you cease immediately. This includes garnishments. In fact, you may even be able to get some of the money back that has been garnished in the months leading up to your bankruptcy.

However, there are some types of debts that cannot be included in a bankruptcy filing and that will neither be discharged in a Chapter 7 nor become part of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan, such as student loans. If the garnishment of your wages is due to a debt that falls into this category, you can expect the wage garnishment to continue after the bankruptcy. Unpaid child support is another example of a debt that will not be discharged in bankruptcy – if your wages are being garnished because your child support has not been paid, this wage garnishment will continue after your bankruptcy unless you deal with that underlying problem. 

Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings will help you to deal with debts from credit cards, personal loans, medical bills and most other types of unsecured debts. Even some types of unpaid tax debt can be discharged in Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This means if your wages are being garnished for any of these types of debts, the wage garnishment will stop when your automatic stay goes into effect. Since the debts will be addressed by your bankruptcy, the garnishment will not restart. Further, if one creditor has garnished over $600 in the 90 days leading up to your bankruptcy, then you may be able to get that money back as part of a bankruptcy filing. 

If your wages are being garnished, consult with a bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible to find out how and if you can stop the garnishment. 

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