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Can my husband's wages be garnished for my credit card debt in MN?

Farmington, MN |

I lost my job and all we have is his salary for our family of 3 children. We don't have enough to pay bills every month right now so some crd. cards have not been paid. I want to pay them, but they are unwillling to work with me on a low temp payment schedule til we can do more. He is not a joint user on any of the accounts but I did get them after we were married.

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Except for student loans & government debts, wage garnishment can only occur when a creditor has sued someone & obtained a court judgment against them. You can't garnish someone not named in the lawsuit.

However, if the wages are then deposited into a joint bank account, the creditor can do an end run & take the money out of the bank account instead of directly taking the wages.

Hope this perspective helps!

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5 comments

Asker

Posted

oh good! Thank you. How do I respond to a summons or being sued and told I have to sign to pay legal fees? Do I need an attorney? We can't afford one (obviously)...

Dorothy G Bunce

Dorothy G Bunce

Posted

You almost always need to respond in writing & the requirements vary widely throughout the US. Check the court website for more information.

Asker

Posted

Thank you so much for your help. I seriously dislike this situation and you have been a tremendous help with your assistance. Thank you, again! You are AWESOME!!

Michael J Corbin

Michael J Corbin

Posted

Please don't think that they cannot ALSO sue your husband, even if his name isn't on the account - see my answer below. I agree that, until he is named in a lawsuit, he isn't liable for the debts. But, they can sue him.

Michael James Wang

Michael James Wang

Posted

I'm sorry, but this information is inaccurate in Minnesota. In most states (possibly all of them) not Minnesota, this is accurate and garnishment can only occur after a creditor obtains a judgment. But in Minnesota, you are entitled to garnish wages/levy accounts just when you are entitled to a default judgment. That means they could sue you by serving you with a summons and complaint, not file it with the court (called "pocket filing"), and if you don't provide a response within 20 days, they can then garnish.

Posted

I disagree with the earlier answer. Minnesota, like many other states, has a "necessities" law on its books (or recognized through court decisions). The necessities doctrine is one in which a spouse is liable for the debts of another if those debts were incurred for "necessities" - like food, gas, medical, etc. I see spouses sued all the time for debts their significant others incur - it doesn't matter if the other name isn't on the account. If you incurred these debts while married, and these debts could in any way be argued to be for a "necessity," then they certainly can sue your husband, obtain a judgment, and then garnish his wages. I do agree that, if you have a joint account, they can levy that account even if they don't have a judgment with your husband's name on it. Also, no credit card company is required to "work with you" - they are entitled to be paid what you agreed to pay them. As a practical matter, many do try to work something out to avoid garnishment, etc., but they aren't required to do so.

We can be reached at 507.334.0155. Our web address is: www. corbin-law-office.com. Answers on Avvo are not to be considered a response to a specific legal issue in a specific jurisdiction - they are to be considered only general responses to hypothetical scenarios posed by the questioner. For specific legal advice, please consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. No information contained herein should be construed as a solicitation for business, an offer to perform legal services in any jurisdiction in which the attorneys of Corbin Law Office are not licensed, or the dissemination of legal advice. We are a debt relief agency. Corbin Law Office helps people file for bankruptcy relief under the bankruptcy code.

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1 comment

Asker

Posted

ok thank you. I do understand they don't have to work with me. I was attempting to do something until we were able to do more. And called them to see what my options were temporarily. I've never had to worry about this before so wanted to be proactive instead of just not paying. Thanks for your response. I appreciate it.

Posted

If he was named in a lawsuit for the credit card then, yes.
Unless he was an authorized user or cardholder on the account, his wages cannot be sued for the debt. Minnesota's "necessities" exception is an exception to the general rule that spouses are not liable for each others debts. Minn. Stat. Section 519.05 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=519.05) The doctrine of necessaries allows a creditor to go after the spouse if the debt was incurred for the benefit of the entire household. I have successfully defended claims against spouses on the basis that the credit card debt was not incurred primarily for the benefit of the entire household.
Minnesota garnishment law is different from most other states. A lawsuit is started by serving a Summons and Complaint - not by filing it with a court. And if you do not answer the lawsuit, the creditor can serve a garnishment before the case is ever filed with any court. Your bank accounts could be garnished without warning at any time 40 days or more after you are served with a lawsuit. If it is a joint account, all of the funds will be frozen and the non-debtor spouse has the burden of proving the money belongs to them. The creditor has to give you notice before garnishing your wages.

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3 comments

Paul H. Weig

Paul H. Weig

Posted

I meant that he cannot be sued for it, and his wages cannot be garnished. But actually he can be sued, but he may have a defense to the claim and he may have a counterclaim for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Truth-In-Lending Act. Despite the necessities exception, in Minnesota a creditor cannot sue one spouse for the debts of the other without evidence of a contractual relationship with the non-debtor spouse. He had to agree to be bound by the credit card contract, either by siging something, or by using, paying or authorizing someone else to use the account.

Asker

Posted

Thank you! If I sign the complaint regarding the legal fees, am I obligated to pay those as well?

Paul H. Weig

Paul H. Weig

Posted

I'm not sure what you are asking. What did you sign?

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