After a creditor has obtained an order to garnish your wages, you may still be able to object to the garnishment. The court or your employer may provide you with information on how to object. This process will unfold differently for different types of debts, and variations in state laws also may affect the process. However, a debtor usually has a right to notice and a hearing. They may have just a few days or as much as a month to make an objection.
Making an Objection
The court documents will provide specific instructions for how to make an objection. You should make sure to follow them precisely because an objection may be disqualified for failing to comply with requirements. These may include the time period in which you can object, the form that you need to complete, the contents of the objection, and the court in which you need to file the objection. The court documents also may provide the date, time, and location of the potential hearing on the objection. If you do not receive instructions or forms in the documents, you can contact the clerk of court to find out what you should do. You should determine whether you need to serve your objection on the creditor.
Most written objections will need to include the case number and caption. This is essentially the name of the case and includes the names of the creditor and the debtor. You also should provide the date and your contact information, and you will need to sign the objection. Regarding the grounds for the objection, you will need to explain why you believe that your earnings are exempt based on your calculations. Alternatively, you may oppose the garnishment on the grounds that you have already addressed the debt by paying the creditor or getting a discharge through bankruptcy. You should provide as much detail as possible to support your position.
Preparing for a Hearing
You cannot use the hearing on the wage garnishment to attack the underlying judgment from which the creditor received the garnishment order. The only purpose of this hearing consists of determining whether a debtor is exempt from garnishment. You must attend this hearing, which will be scheduled in the original garnishment notice or after the objection has been filed. The creditor may have representation at the hearing, but often the hearing will involve only the debtor and the judge. You should bring documents that show the judge why you should be exempt or partly exempt from garnishment.
The judge may agree with your position and sustain your objection, which means that the garnishment will be terminated or reduced. Or the judge may not agree with you and instead leave the garnishment in place, overruling your objection.
Special Issues Involving Taxes and Student Loans
Collections for taxes and student loans do not require the government or other creditors to get a court order for a garnishment. However, you still can object in some cases. You would need to promptly submit your written objection and explain why you are exempt under federal or state laws.
If you are facing garnishment by the IRS, you will receive a form on which you can claim exemptions based on the number of dependents in your household and your income. (These should not be confused with exemptions that you can claim against an ordinary creditor.) A similar process applies to garnishment by state tax agencies.
If you are facing garnishment based on a student loan, you probably will have 30 days to try to arrange a new payment plan or seek assistance based on a hardship. You can also object and request a hearing in this situation.