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Wage Garnishments and Claims of Exemption

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What it means.

Most of the people who call The Fullman Firm, P.C. about a wage garnishment have been sued by a creditor and the creditor received a court judgment. That court judgment lets the creditor have a sheriff garnish their wages to collect the on the debt.  The sheriff might not be your local sheriff.  It can be any sheriff in California.  You may be surprised because you might not have received any previous notices, but if you are dealing with a wage garnishment by a debt collector, this is almost certainly what happened.

If the wage garnishment is taking money you need to pay for your family’s monthly expenses, you can get the court to reduce the amount being taken out of your paycheck by filing a Claim of Exemption.

What to do.

Your employer should have given you the Claim of Exemption Forms and instructions before they started taking money out of your pay check for the garnishment.  If they did not, you can ask your employer for the forms, or you can download them here:

http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/wg003.pdf

http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/wg006.pdf

http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/wg007.pdf

The first form you’ll want is form WG-003, that’s the instructions.  After that, you will need forms WG-006 and WG-007.

When you fill out these forms you are asking the court to reduce the amount of money coming out of your paycheck for the wage garnishment. This will not reduce the amount of debt you owe, but it will let you keep more of your paycheck.    Be honest with the judge about your income and expenses. If the wage garnishment is going to cause hardship for your family, the court has the power to reduce the garnishment down to a small payment, and in some cases the court will reduce it to zero.

File the Claim of Exemption with the sheriff’s office.

After you have filled out forms WG-006 and WG-007 carefully and completely, be sure to include your last two months of pay stubs with the forms and send these forms to the same sheriff’s office that is handling your wage garnishment.  I recommend driving them to the sheriff’s office yourself, or mailing them by overnight mail.  If you do not know which sheriff’s office is handling your wage garnishment, ask your employer for it.  Your employer has the information because they were already served with the paperwork ordering the wage garnishment and the information is on that paperwork.

Wait a couple weeks for a written response.

The written response will say one of two things.  Either:

1) The creditor will agree with you that the garnishment should be reduced, or

2) You will be given a time and place for a court hearing where a judge will decide how much to reduce the garnishment.

Don’t lose sleep.

Remember, you are asking a judge to order the wage garnishment reduced, you are not begging the creditor to be nice to you.  If the creditor agrees with you, then you will get a notice that the creditor did not oppose your claim of exemption.  But even if the creditor disagrees with you, that’s not a problem.  In that case the creditor’s response to you will include a date and time for a hearing in front of a judge, and the judge will decide, which is just fine.  Most judges will have sympathy for you if you are in a tight spot financially.  The judge can even order the sheriff to return some or all of the money already taken.

The claim of exemption forms are designed so that you do not need a lawyer to fill them out for you, but if you feel like you need assistance, we can complete them and file them with the sheriff for a fee of $400.  For more information on that, please email us at [email protected].

If this is the first time you are hearing about a lawsuit against you, and if the debt is over $6,000, we recommend you contact us if you have not already done so.

That’s our advice on wage garnishment.  We wish you good luck.

Forms:

http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/wg003.pdf

http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/wg006.pdf

http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/wg007.pdf

 

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