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Can creditor's garnish my wages when I can barely make ends meet and have 3 children

San Antonio, TX |

i have 3rd party collectors sending letters for about $4000 in debt (when i divorced, i was left with all the debt and only my salary to pay it off, and i fell behind and could not pay it on one salary). I live in texas, am poverty level, and make my house payments on time and can barely make it every month (overdraft fees becuase of high utilities), and cannot even afford my $18 in meds! Can they take my salary, which doesn't even cover my barest essentials, or my home? I am a single mom with 3 other dependents, the only wage earner making about $25,000 year gross.

...they are out of state and threaten legal action, but i honestly do not have enough money to buy food and gas, let alone pay any extra bills, and have a special needs child that has cost a lot in dr bills this year, and no child support as well.

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Attorney answers 3


Although I do not practice there, my understanding is that Texas does not allow for the garnishment of wages.

(Note that your financial circumstances or the need to pay other expenses, such as food, medicine and rent/mortgage, form no part of determining how much can be garnished, in states that allow it.)

Brett Weiss

The Small Print: This response is for discussion purposes only. It isn't meant to be legal advice and you shouldn't treat it as such. If you want legal advice, speak with a local lawyer familiar with your state's laws who can review *all* of the facts and the law applicable to your situation.


Dear single mom,

First of all, allow me to say how very touched I am by your story. unfortunately, too many people find themselves just as you are and debt collectors are simply heartless. The Good don't have to live like this.

Texas generally does not allow wage garnishment for civil debts unless its a government agency such as the IRS. However, I need to know where the contract, that makes the subject of this collection, was originated. If the contract was signed in a different state, said state law will generally control. If the state law that controls this breach of contract allows wage garnishment, then they can still do wage garnishment even if you live in Texas. If you have lived in Texas all along, then it seems to me that you are protected from any wage garnishment as a result of this breach of contract.

There are a few things you could do to try to stop these collection efforts. one is to send the debt collection agency a cease and desist letter in which you state that you WILL NOT pay the amount being sought by the agency and for them to cease any further collection efforts of you. This will serve several purposes. One is that they would no longer be able to attempt collection efforts of you without violating federal and perhaps state laws on fair debt collection. The only remedy that the collection agency would have at that point is to file a civil lawsuit against you or nothing at all.

My experience is that such lawsuits, although done, are rare and far between. If such lawsuit is filed, you will receive the lawsuit petition and at that point you can do something to take care of it. For example, you may have an affirmative defense such as that the statute of limitation has run (if you last made a payment on said account 4 yrs ago or more in texas) or if you would find it useful to file Bankruptcy and that would stay the litigation against said lawsuit.

May God bless you and feel free to write if we can be of any further assistance. Please remember this is for general purposes only as IS NOT intended to be legal advice to you. You must seek your own attorney for specific advice on your situation.

Ruben E. Vasquez
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Vasquez Law Firm
Bankruptcy Law
719 S. Flores, ste. 100
San Antonio, Texas 78204
(210) 229-2067
Get a Financial Fresh Start. TM


Dear Defendant,

The Short answer to this question is probably not. They have the right to sue you and obtain a judgment for the $4,000.00 but chances are that they will not be able to collect on said judgment.

If Texas law governs your contract (i.e. the terms of the contract stated this or the contract was signed in texas) then the statute of limitations begins to run after your last payment on said account. If it has been four or more years since you last paid anything on this account then you have an affirmative defense in your lawsuit. However, this is expensive to defend and even if you win you will only solve one creditor that is trying to collect from you.

Short of an affirmative defense, you may be able to settle the lawsuit by agreeing to pay a sum certain amount of the $4000.00 and resolve the suit this way. However, based on the information you provided, this is NOT a solution for you.

A third option would be to consider filing bankruptcy. Depending on how many household members you have and the gross income on your household, you may qualify to file under Chapter 7 that would create a stay in this lawsuit and when you get a discharge, this will legally eliminate your underlying debt of this lawsuit and any and all other unsecured debt you may have. Of course, you should consult your own bankruptcy attorney for further details on your case as it is very important to consider other things such as what assets you own and what other debts you have.

If you would like to discuss your situation further, Our office would be happy to consult with you to give you specific details as to what you can do to put this lawsuit behind you. Call us for a free initial, no obligation, confidential consultation with our firm.

Remember that this is not intended to be legal advice to you. You must consult your own attorney for specific legal advice to your situation. Thank you and God Bless you.

Ruben E. Vasquez
Attorney & Counselor at Law
The Vasquez Law Firm
719 S. Flores, Ste. 100
San Antonio, Texas 78204
(210) 229-2067 office
(210) 229-1302 fax