Will Bankruptcy Stop Wage Garnishments?

The short answer is yes.Once your case is filed, creditors are no longer entitled to garnish your wages for debts that existed at the beginning of the case. The only exception may be for on-going child or family support ordered by a court. This is a function of the automatic stay. The filing of a bankruptcy case, under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code, triggers an injunction against the continuance of any action by any creditor against the debtor or the debtor’s property. 11 U.S.C. 362. In Chapter 13, the stay even protects co debtors who are liable with the debtor on consumer debts. The automatic stay gives the debtor protection from his creditors, subject to the oversight of the bankruptcy judge, and brings all of the debtor’s assets and creditors into the same forum, the bankruptcy court, where the rights of all concerned can be balanced.

The 2005 amendments to the Bankruptcy Code instituted limitations on the duration of the stay in the case of repeat filers: debtors who had a prior case pending in the last year which was dismissed get a stay of 30 days; debtors with two or more cases pending in the past years but dismissed get no stay at all. The debtor in those situations must seek a stay from the court in order to have the protection of the automatic (or not so automatic) stay. Once the automatic stay expires, the discharge of the underlying debt will forever eliminate a creditor’s right to garnish your wages on account of that debt.

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