Wage Garnishment Lawyers in Oakland, CA

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Wage garnishment, also known as “attachment,” occurs when a certain portion of your paycheck is withheld from you and used to pay back a creditor or debt collector. When this happens, your employer takes the money out before you receive your check. Wage garnishment can cause both embarrassment (since your employer is dragged into your financial troubles) and severe financial hardship (since you are forced to make ends meet with less income).

Wage garnishment can also affect your bank account and overall financial situation, making it even more challenging to manage your finances.

If your wages are being garnished, you may find yourself struggling more than before to pay off your other debts. At Kostopoulos Bankruptcy Law, we can help you explore bankruptcy as an option to not only stop your garnishment, but to help get rid of your debts.


Can Bankruptcy Stop Wage Garnishment?

Yes. If you are suffering from wage garnishment or you are at risk of having your wages garnished, you may be able to put a stop to this action through filing bankruptcy. Once you declare bankruptcy, you get to benefit from an automatic stay, which brings your creditors’ collection efforts (including wage garnishment) to a halt while you undergo the bankruptcy process.

After filing your case, your attorney can inform your employer and the garnishing creditor about your bankruptcy case so they can put a stop to the garnishment. Continuing with the garnishment can be a violation of the automatic stay.

Our bankruptcy attorneys in Oakland can review your financial situation and help you determine whether bankruptcy can be an effective option to obtain relief from wage garnishment. Filing for bankruptcy can also help secure a better financial future by reducing or eliminating debts and stopping wage garnishment.


How Much of Your Paycheck Can Be Garnished in California?

State and federal law set certain limitations on how much of a debtor’s check can be withheld. In California, wages can only be garnished up to the following amount (as calculated by the workweek):

  • Up to 25% of the debtor’s disposable income, or
  • 40 times the state’s minimum wage minus the debtor’s weekly disposable income (whichever of the two is less).

In contrast, federal law allows wage garnishment at either up to 25% of the debtor’s disposable income or up to 30 times the federal minimum wage (whichever is less).

As can be seen here, debtors have a greater level of protection under California law than they do under federal law when it comes to wage garnishment.

Even so, the greatest level of protection would be avoiding wage garnishment altogether, which may be a possibility when the debtor files for bankruptcy.


What Types of Income Can Be Garnished?

Creditors and debt collectors can only garnish your wages with a court judgment, which is obtained after the creditor or debt collectors sues you. Most income can be garnished, but some types of income are exempt.

Administrative wage garnishment can be used to collect child and spousal support, back taxes, and federal student loan debt without needing a court judgment.

What can be garnished?

  • Regular wages from your workplace
  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Investment income
  • Bank accounts

What is exempt from wage garnishment?

  • Social Security benefits
  • Workers’ compensation payments
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Retirement accounts

However, there are certain types of debt that can be collected through wage garnishment even without a court judgment. These include overdue income tax debt, unpaid child support and defaulted student loan debt.


Wage Garnishment: The Hidden Costs

Wage garnishment does more than just shrink your paycheck. It can have far-reaching consequences for your financial well-being. Receiving a wage garnishment order can severely impact your financial stability, as it involves a legal process where a creditor sues you in state court and, upon obtaining a judgment, directs your employer to withhold a portion of your wages.

In this section, we’ll delve into these hidden costs, such as:

  • Increased Stress and Anxiety: The financial strain of having your wages garnished can lead to significant emotional distress, impacting your overall health and well-being.
  • Damaged Credit Score: Wage garnishment can be reported to credit bureaus, potentially lowering your credit score and making it more difficult to obtain loans or credit in the future.
  • Difficulty Paying Other Bills: With a reduced income, you may struggle to meet your other financial obligations, leading to late payments, additional fees, and even further collection actions.
  • Strained Relationships: Financial stress can put a strain on your personal relationships, creating tension and conflict with family and friends.


Understanding California’s Wage Garnishment Laws Under State and Federal Law

California has specific laws in place to protect workers from excessive wage garnishment. We’ll explain these laws in detail, including:

  • Exemption Limits: California law sets limits on the amount of your disposable earnings that can be garnished, protecting a significant portion of your income.
  • Exempt Income: Certain types of income, such as Social Security benefits and certain retirement accounts, are exempt from wage garnishment under California law.
  • Employer Responsibilities: Employers have certain legal obligations when it comes to wage garnishment, such as notifying you of the garnishment and ensuring that the correct amount is withheld.

Wage exemption laws are crucial in preventing a judgment creditor from garnishing a bank account by correctly identifying the portion of bank account funds that consist of wages. These laws ensure that a portion of your income remains protected.


Steps to Take If You Are Facing Wage Garnishment

Facing wage garnishments can feel overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and potentially stop the garnishment. We’ll provide a step-by-step guide on what to do if your wages are being garnished, including:

  1. Review the Garnishment Order: Carefully review the garnishment order to ensure it is valid and that the amount being withheld is accurate.
  2. Claim Exemptions: If any of your income is exempt from garnishment, file a claim of exemption with the court to stop or reduce the garnishment.
  3. Negotiate with the Creditor: In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a payment plan or settlement with the creditor to stop the garnishment.
  4. File for Bankruptcy: If you’re struggling with overwhelming debt, filing for bankruptcy may be the most effective way to stop wage garnishment and achieve a fresh financial start.


Your Local Oakland Wage Garnishment Advocates

We’re proud to serve the Oakland community and are deeply committed to helping individuals overcome the challenges of wage garnishment. Our team of experienced attorneys understands the local laws and court procedures, and we’re dedicated to providing personalized, compassionate legal representation to every client. We believe that everyone deserves a chance to get their finances back on track, and we’re here to help you do just that.


Questions About Filing for Bankruptcy?

If you have questions about filing for bankruptcy, feel free to contact our team for help. Your consultation is free, and we would be happy to go over your concerns and help you determine if bankruptcy is the right path for you at this time.

Reclaim Your Paycheck & Your Peace of Mind. Let us fight for your financial freedom. Contact us now for a free consultation and discover how we can help you stop wage garnishment.

Contact Kostopoulos Bankruptcy Law at (877) 969-7482 to get the help you need when you are threatened with wage garnishment. We serve clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area!