How to Stop Wage Garnishment in Washington

If you find yourself underwater financially, the last thing that you need is less money in your pocket at the end of your workweek. Yet wage garnishment does just that – takes money directly out of your paycheck to pay off your unpaid bills. Having a wage garnishment order can make it incredibly difficult to get back on level financial footing.

If you want to stop wage garnishment in Washington, then your best option may be to file for bankruptcy.  Through a bankruptcy petition, you can put an immediate stop to garnishment of both your wages and your bank accounts. Doing so may also help you access any garnished wages held by your employer or even recover funds garnished in the 90 days prior to filing for bankruptcy.

At the Law Office of Richard D. Granvold, we understand how easy it can be to get in over your head financially. If you are dealing with unpaid bills, wage garnishment, and mounting debt, a bankruptcy may help you get back on your feet. Give our office a call today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.

Understanding Wage Garnishment in Washington State

A wage garnishment is an order that requires your employer to withhold a specific amount of money from your paycheck and send it to a creditor instead. In most cases, wage garnishment requires a court order (writ of garnishment). However, in some situations – if you owe child support, federal student loans, taxes, or alimony – a creditor does not have to file a lawsuit in order to get a wage garnishment. These may be referred to as administrative  garnishments.

A writ of garnishment can be issued for all types of debt, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Consumer debt (credit card bills)
  • Back child support payments
  • Private student loans
  • Federal student loans
  • Unpaid alimony
  • Unpaid taxes

A wage garnishment order can take a substantial chunk out of your pay. This money is taken out of your disposable earnings, which is the amount that you get after all mandatory deductions are taken out by your employer. Any money that is garnished is then taken out of your take-home pay.

Under Washington law, creditors can garnish as much as 25% of your weekly disposable earnings, or your weekly disposable earnings minus 35 times the federal minimum wage. At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that means that a wage garnishment could dock your pay by either 25% of your weekly disposable earnings or $253.75 per week (whichever is less).

There are some exceptions to this general rule for wage garnishment in Washington. For example, for private student loan debt, a writ of garnishment can only be issued for the lesser of 15% of your weekly disposable earnings or your earnings minus 50 times the minimum state hourly wage. With judgments for consumer debt, the garnishment is limited to the lesser of 20% of your weekly disposable earnings or your weekly disposable earnings minus 35 times the state minimum hourly wage.

While Washington’s wage garnishment law limits how much of your personal earnings can be garnished for most debts, federal law addresses other types of garnishments, such as for child support, federal student loans in default, and back taxes. A skilled Federal Way bankruptcy lawyer can help you understand how these wage garnishment laws apply to your specific situation.

The upshot of these laws is that if a creditor gets a writ of garnishment against you, then your take-home pay could be significantly reduced. Because most people only get wage garnishment orders when they are facing financial difficulties, this means that it can be that much harder to get back on track financially. For this reason, you may be considering options for stopping wage garnishment – such as by filing for bankruptcy.

Stopping Wage Garnishment in Washington

There are some options for protecting your wages from garnishment, such as by objecting to a writ of garnishment or filing an exemption claim with the court. You can also stop most wage garnishments by filing for bankruptcy. In most cases, the sooner you can do this, the better.

When you file for bankruptcy, all debt collection actions and lawsuits against you must stop immediately, with the exception of some family law matters. This includes any garnishments, lawsuits, repossessions, foreclosure, and creditor calls. In other words, filing for bankruptcy can end a wage garnishment – giving you the ability to get on top of your debt.

Filing for bankruptcy as an individual stops garnishment instantly.  Remember that any creditor who has a judgment against you can garnish your wages or any bank account that lists your name. This means that if you have been sued for unpaid credit card bills, for example, then the creditor could get a judgment against you and request a writ of garnishment. From that point forward, as much as 25% of your weekly paycheck will go straight to the creditor. 

When you file for bankruptcy, however, your bankruptcy attorney will fax a letter to your employer’s payroll department along with a copy of the bankruptcy petition. They will also fax a copy of the petition to the creditor’s attorney. This will stop any wage garnishment.

When your wages are being garnished, there are three goals that you will probably want to accomplish. First, you want to stop any more deductions from being taken out of your weekly disposable earnings. The very act of filing a bankruptcy petition achieves this goal.

Second, your employer may have garnished money on hand, as they typically withhold money for up to 60 days after receiving a writ of garnishment until they receive a court order directing them where to send the monies and when. This money is considered an asset that should be listed in your bankruptcy. When you file for bankruptcy, you will be able to consider this as an asset, exempt it all so it is then returned to you. 

Third, if a creditor obtained more than $600 in wage garnishment in the 90 days or fewer prior to when you filed for bankruptcy or if they received money from your employer without a court order, then you may be able to recover that money.

The 90-day window for recovering money is complicated when the garnishment is taken from a bank account rather than an employer. For example, although judges may issue contrary opinions sometimes, one judge has ruled that the garnishment of a bank account constitutes a “transfer” on the date of service of the Writ of Garnishment on the bank. As such, the 90 days starts on this date and does not constitute a preference if the bankruptcy is filed more than 90 days after the order is issued. 

If a garnishment order has been issued for your bank account, then some types of money may be exempt from garnishment. For example, Social Security benefits are generally exempt from garnishment. Stimulus payments and 2021 child tax credit payments may possibly be exempt from garnishment, but commingling with other monies on deposit can affect that issue too.

While the issues related to garnishment orders are complicated, the key to protecting your wages and assets is often to file for bankruptcy as quickly as possible. At the Law Offices of Richard D. Granvold, we normally process your case so it can be filed within two business days to stop that garnishment. A bankruptcy petition can protect you in a number of ways, such as shielding you from collection agencies. 

However, there are many factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not to file for bankruptcy.  Attorney Richard D. Granvold can advise you on your options for filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and how it will affect your various financial and legal obligations, including garnishments. Because there are strict deadlines related to these issues, it is important to reach out to schedule a free initial consultation as soon as possible. 

How Can I Stop a Wage Garnishment Fast?

It is possible to stop a wage garnishment order by attacking the underlying court order (such as by filing a motion to vacate the judgment), petitioning the court, or seeking an exemption.  However, the fastest way to stop wage garnishment in Washington is to file for bankruptcy. If you qualify, then a bankruptcy filing will immediately put an end to a wage garnishment order for medical debt, consumer debt, and more.

Attorney Richard Granvold works with people who are experiencing financial difficulties to help them get their lives back on track. He counsels individuals on the best way to resolve their debt, which may include filing for bankruptcy. Give our law office a call to schedule a free consultation with a Federal Way bankruptcy lawyer.

Will Filing for Bankruptcy Stop All Wage Garnishment?

When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay will be put into place. This stay is from the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. It prevents creditors, collection agencies, and others from pursuing you for your debts while your bankruptcy case is pending.

While this stay goes into effect immediately when you file for bankruptcy, it does not protect you from all types of wage garnishment. Specifically, high-priority debts that cannot be discharged during bankruptcy – such as child support and alimony – may still be subject to a writ of garnishment. If you have questions about how filing for bankruptcy will affect a wage garnishment order, reach out to a Federal Way, WA bankruptcy attorney today.

Does Wage Garnishment Affect My Credit Score?

Yes. A garnishment judgment will stay on your credit report for up to 7 years. That is why it may make more sense to file for bankruptcy to stop the wage garnishment and get your debts discharged.

While some people may be reluctant to file for bankruptcy because of how it affects your credit, it is often the best option. Because wage garnishment, late payments, and unpaid bills also affect your credit score, filing for bankruptcy may actually be preferable for many people. Contact the Law Office of Richard D. Granvold to learn more about how bankruptcy can stop wage garnishment and help you get a fresh start.

Facing Wage Garnishment? Reach Out Today.

If your employer is sending part of your paycheck to a creditor, you may be able to put a stop to it. Filing for bankruptcy may be a good way for you to end wage garnishment and either liquidate your debt or pay it back using a payment plan.

With more than 34 years of experience, Bankruptcy Attorney Richard D. Granvold can help you get the financial fresh start you need. We will review the specifics of your individual situation and advise you of your rights and options for filing bankruptcy. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, give our law firm a call at 253-289-3522 or fill out our online contact form.