Paycheck Garnishments: Where did a quarter of my paycheck go?

Have you had a judgment against you? Your wages garnished? Did you know about it?

Wage garnishments are a process of seizing part of a debtor’s paycheck or bank account funds. Think it’s hard to garnish someone’s wages? Think again. Wage garnishments are on the rise. As of today there are no national statistics but several cities are reporting huge increases. Wage garnishments are up 121% since 2005 in Phoenix and 30% in Atlanta and Cleveland.
Some debtor’s don’t even know they are being sued. Servers have been shown to skip the process and fudge the paperwork. Even when they do know, most consumers are overwhelmed and intimated and can rarely afford a lawyer.
The best advice: Show up anyway. If not, you may find a fourth of your paycheck missing like Leann Weaver. Capital One Bank sued her and started garnishing over $200.00 from her retail store paychecks. She learned about the wage garnishments when her debit card was decline at the grocery store.
Capital One won’t speak about this case but Tatiana Stead has sent an e-mail message saying, “We encourage anyone facing difficulties meeting their financial obligations to contact us right away.”
Weaver who says, “I cant’ even look at my paychecks anymore,” claims she repeatedly asked for more time to pay the $2, 470 credit card debt. She didn’t go to court to defend herself though and the judgment added another $1,800.00 in lawyer’s fees and interests.
Many consumers like Weaver are too overwhelmed to show up and offer a defense. Creditors easily win without having to offer much in the way proof and the lawyer’s fees and interest are tacked on. After a suit is won the creditor can get a court order to garnish wages.
Since many debts are bought from banks for pennies on the dollar, the creditors aren’t always the original bank and often lack the proof needed. That’s why it is worth the time to show up.
A judge threw out a suit against Ruth Owens after reviewing her payment history and reading her handwritten note.
“After paying my monthly utilities, there is no money left except a little food money and sometimes it isn’t enough,” Owens wrote.
Owens had paid nearly $3,500 on original charges of about $1,900. She was being sued for over $5,500, which included lots of late fees, interest and penalties.
On the other hand, Sidney Jones of Virginia didn’t go to court to defend himself. He believed that the creditor could only take what he owed, a little over $4,000.00. They added $900.00 in lawyer’s fees and started tacking on 27.55% interest.
After six years, Jones’ wages had been garnished for over $10,000 and yet his balance was still $3, 965.
Dale Pittman, a consumer law lawyer took Mr. Jones’s case without a fee, says “It’s a perfectly legal result under Virginia law.” Thankfully the wage garnishments have now ceased.
“If the consumers were armed with more education about how to defend against these debts, they’d be successful,” said Jeffrey Lipman, a civil magistrate from Iowa.