I received a notice in the mail yesterday that a creditor has filed for a wage garnishment.
Total amount now is about $1,400.
The original debt was about $3,400. (I'm a terrible person and lost the original record of that, but I could get the info easily by looking through my bank records.)
This has all been done by a licensed lawyer in my state, they have a judgement, and to the best of my knowledge they have all their ducks in a row- creditor information, original debt, etc etc and they've been doing this on the direct order of the creditor. These guys are lawyers, they are not debt collectors.
I've been playing with these guys for years now. They sued about 5 years ago and got a judgement (I went there, they had the lawyer on the phone instead of in person and I just didn't know how to challenge them or have the confidence to do so). They filed for garnishment but were denied because it would have brought my wages under the Federal Poverty Line, if I recall right. There was also something about my living expenses, assets, etc that I filled out and sent in. When that didn't work, they hounded me on the phone, trying to get me to agree to a payment plan. I made a couple of token $75 payments, but I just couldn't afford it and didn't send them anything else.
They went quiet for a couple years, then started bugging me again. Letters, phone calls, etc. Eventually, they got one of those services that hand delivers letters- I'd missed them as I went to get groceries, and when I came back, there was a notice on the door about it and additionally something about posting my judgement in the newspapers if I didn't respond to the letter delivery attempt, god I can't even remember exactly, but basically it was a shaming tactic I guess, trying to embarass me by threatening to have it put in the paper. I called the number and spoke to the woman (the person who was hired to deliver the letter) and she came back to give it me. She was actually really nice and told me not to be scared, because they can't take what I don't have and so on.
This letter required me to meet at a lawyer's office in my city to have some kind of observed or recorded phone call to the suing lawyer for the creditor. I went there, talked to the guy on the phone, told him what I was making and what my expenses were. He tried to get me to agree to $150 a month but I just could not make that at all, I was barely getting by as it was, and the final agreement for $75 a month was still a hardship for me, and I struggled and struggled to fit my expenses around it because I was just scared to death about the whole thing.
I've been dutifully sending in a check each month for that $75 for around a year and a half, but I guess they're getting antsy about it again, because they've sent me a wage garnishment notice again. The only thing this packet has is a worksheet to figure out if a 20% garnishment would drop me below the poverty line, it has nothing about my recurring bills, monthly expenses like food or toiletries, anything like that.
I am looking for advice on how to deal with them this time. I was thinking that getting a copy of 3 months of wages to work out the average weekly pay to determine if garnishment would drop me below the poverty line is good. We've had a lot of snow days, and low volume, my work can vary a lot week to week, so my average hours isn't going to be amazing. And of course, I have bills to pay- like having a roof over my head, a car to get me to my job, and food, among other essentials- so if they just start grabbing my paycheck all willy-nilly, it could seriously screw me over as far as making my car payment, rent, insurance etc on time since 20% one week might not be a problem, but then 20% the next week might leave me starving if I only get 25 hours at work. My hours have varied from 20 to 35.
Ideally, no garnishment is my preference, but if I can't avoid it, I need to protect my ability to pay my bills and buy the neccessities of life.
I really can't just go hire a lawyer (if I had money for that, I wouldn't be in this position to begin with, you know?). My only option right now feels like filling out the worksheet, using a 3 month period to get my average weekly pay (so they can't, for example, claim that I intentionally marked my hours/wage low even tho some weeks are better than others), and then adding an additional sheet showing monthly recurring expenses and food costs (I've found a guide before for garnishment I think that showed the expected or average cost of food per number in household per month or something like that). I need to preserve what I need for my bills, gas, and food, and only give them access to what is in excess of that amount.
I haven't looked online yet for other resources, this letter just came last night and I only just got home from my graveyard shift at work. I'm asking here in hopes that someone has some advice or has experienced something like this before.
I am not afraid of them.
I am not in a panic. I know that they cannot hurt me, they can't take anything from me (I have no assets), and even a lien on my car wouldn't get them paid any faster since I've still got 5 years of payments left on that. The worst thing that can happen is I eat a lot of pasta for a few months. I'm just stating this so no one worries that I'm panicing and scared of them. I want to approach this calmly, and hopefully have it come out in my favor as regards my ability to pay my bills.
As you have been paying 75 a month there is no reason for garnishment I would appeal to the judge to not grant a garnishment if you can, not all states allow appeals of enforcement it depends on state law.
Adding: Certain things are exempt from garnishment in certain states as well, like in TX wages cannot be garnished. Also if the judgment was obtained in one state and you have moved to another then they would have to go through a domestication process to even begin to enforce any collection of the judgment. Judgments also have time limits but they can be renewed in most states.