Typically, a debtor's wages can be garnished only after a judgment has been entered against that Debtor.
Generally, filing a bankruptcy petition triggers an automatic order that stops or "stays" wage garnishments. In other words, the wage garnishments must stop immediately. The order is automatic, and is effective immediately upon filing the bankruptcy. If a creditor continues the wage garnishment after the filing of bankruptcy, the creditor must pay the money back immediately, even if, at the time of the wage garnishment, the creditor honestly did not know about the bankruptcy filing. If a creditor refuses to pay the money back after having notice of bankruptcy, the creditor can be sued, and will be forced to pay the debtor's attorney fees! Sometimes, even some of the money that was garnished before the filing of the bankruptcy can be recovered through the bankruptcy process!
Under certain circumstances, filing of a bankruptcy might wipe out or "discharge" some or all of the debts that have caused the wage garnishment. Once the debt is wiped out through the bankruptcy process, the creditor can never garnish wages.
Under other circumstances, filing of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow the Debtor to pay the debt back over extended time. While the debtor is in chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, the creditor cannot garnish wages. Obviously, consumers find it very convenient to remain in bankruptcy protection and make reasonable payments through a chapter 13 plan.
This is far more practical than being outside bankruptcy protection and at the mercy of creditors who can continue wage garnishment until the debt is paid off.
If your wages are being garnished, contact us now to talk to a skilled bankruptcy attorney in San Jose who can tell you exactly how the bankruptcy laws can benefit you. We serve those living in Northern California, including Oakland, San Jose and Salinas.