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My paycheck was garnished. No idea why or who by, I was never notified about any court proceedings. How do I resolve this?

Seattle, WA |
Filed under: Wage garnishment

My most recent paycheck was garnished. I was never notified about anything related to this until I saw my paycheck was lower than usual. Turns out I have a garnishment of 25% of my income to collect a significant amount. I asked them who it was from and I didn't recognize the name at all. I have no idea why this money is being taken from me, and at no point was I ever notified about any court dates, about any judgment, or about the garnishment beginning on my paycheck! Tomorrow I am talking to my payroll department to collect all the info they have. How do I go about fighting this? It scares me that someone can take money from me for something I don't even know about without my ever being told about it or even having a chance to fight it or represent myself. Thanks in advance for the help

Attorney Answers 4


You are right to be concerned. You could follow the paper trail to try to find a simple answer and resolution. If this does not resolve quickly you should hire a lawyer to run this to ground. Good luck.

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The Writ of Garnishment has the court case number: obtain that number and look at the court file, online if available.
If the "service" looks fishy, consider consulting with a lawyer.

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There are two solutions here.

One is to attempt to vacate the order if you were not served properly. That would require you pulling the certificate of service from the court files along with the complaint and motion for default. If you have a good argument why you are not responsible for the debt, then it is worth pursuing.

Two, you could consider bankruptcy as an option as it would discharge this debt, any other unsecured debt you have, and return any funds garnished in the last 90 days.

In any case, you will need to take protective steps and it would be wise to speak with a lawyer who understands collections and bankruptcy to help you resolve this.

This answer does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed through this answer. If you wish to have a free consultation as to your question and my answer, please contact me at your soonest convenience.

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I offer another angle on, as it's a big (the biggest?) driving force behind your question: Debtors (especially who hire representation) can still get a favorable settlement with most all creditors by negotiating and settling for just a % of the overall bill, even if it has gone as far as a final court judgment,. But the longer one waits to pursue this strategy, the less likely creditors are to offer as good of a deal. Also, note that this strategy usually requires paying a large initial lump sum amount to the creditor, followed by a few monthly payments if need be.
And significantly, there are some classes of cases in which creditors drop the case and no longer pursue it once debtors hire legal representation--this approach is more in line with a strategy of seeking to vacate the judgment and quash the garnishment. This, and other approaches, can obviously save debtors the full amount the creditors are otherwise seeking!
Some attorneys sometimes offer reduced hourly rates for initial consultations on such cases and/or flat fees for initial court actions so that you, the debtor, aren't left with a large unexpected legal defense/negotiation fee. When considering legal representation, and not that this is going to happen, but it's always better for folks to not be “penny wise (forgoing hiring legal representation) but pound foolish (settling for often much higher $ amounts)”; as a rule, experienced attorneys practicing in this field of law are able to get significantly better settlements and results compared to a debtor negotiating w/ a creditor on their own—typically (not always) INCLUDING attorney fees.
I wish you ALL the best!
~Chad Smithson, Attorney and Counselor at Law

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