What is a garnishment?
A garnishment is a way for a creditor who has a judgment against you to collect the judgment if you do not voluntarily pay it. A garnishment allows a creditor to take money out of your employment wages or your checking account to pay your debt. A creditor MUST have a judgment against you before it can get a garnishment. There are two basic limits on the amount creditors can take from your wages. First, they cannot take more than 25% of your take-home pay. Second, a creditor must leave you with at least $217.50 a week or $870 a month in net (take-home) pay. Therefore, if you are working part-time at low wages, the creditor will not be able to garnish a full 25%.
Is there anything I can do to stop the garnishment?
In Oklahoma, there are some types of money that are protected from garnishment by a creditor such as social security. You can also file for bankruptcy to discharge the debt. You can apply for an “undue hardship” exemption” if you have a family to support. An “undue hardship” exemption is where the court decides that all of your money must go to support your family and you do not have anything left over to pay the creditor. You must have a family or dependents that depend on your income to live before you can ask for an undue hardship exemption.
What do I do to ask for an “undue hardship” exemption?
Time is VERY IMPORTANT when you ask for a hardship exemption. YOU MUST ASK FOR THE EXEMPTION WITHIN 5 (FIVE) DAYS FROM THE DATE THAT YOU RECEIVE YOUR GARNISHMENT NOTICE!!
Your employer should receive a form called “Claim For Exemption and Request For Hearing” with the notice of the garnishment. Your employer should give YOU this form. This is the form you will use to ask the court for your hardship exemption. If your employer does not get this form, you can get one at the courthouse.
Fill the form out. You will need to know your case number and the name of the case. Check the box that says you are asking for an exemption because of undue hardship. You will also need the name and address of the creditor’s attorney. Take copies of the form and then file the original with the court clerk. The court clerk will give you a time and a date for a hearing on your hardship exemption request. You will also need to fill out an “Income and Expense Worksheet” to take with you to your hearing. One is attached to this sheet or you can get one from the court clerk. You will need to bring the worksheet to your hearing. You will also need to bring any proof of your income and expenses such as pay stubs, rent receipts, utility bills, car payment coupons, etc. Bring proof only for your basic living necessities; the judge will not consider any other debts to creditors who do not have judgments against you. If the judge gives you an exemption, it may only be good for a short period of time and you may have to apply for another exemption in the future.
What if I miss the 5-day deadline?
If you miss the 5-day deadline to file the “Claim for Exemption and Request For Hearing” form, you can still ask for an “undue hardship exemption hearing” by filing a “Motion” with the court. You will probably need to hire an attorney to do this.
CLAIM FOR UNDUE HARDSHIP EXEMPTION - INCOME AND EXPENSE WORKSHEET
UNDUE HARDSHIP Amount of Garnishment: __________________________________
Total Family Members: _____________ # of Children and ages: _________________________
Bank account balances: Checking: ________________ Savings: _____________________
Net income weekly: _________________ x 4.3 = ________________________
Net income biweekly:_________________ x 2.15 = ______________________
Net income semi-monthly: __________________ x 2 = ___________________
Monthly net: _______________________
Additional Sources of Income: _______________________
Child Support Income: _______________________
Total Monthly Income: _______________________
Natural gas ___________________
Water and Trash ___________________
School Lunches: ___________________
Baby Milk: ___________________
Car Payment: ___________________
Car Insurance: ___________________
TOTAL EXPENSES: ___________________