How to Stop Wage Garnishment in Minnesota

Posted by William Kain on June 12, 2017 at 9:15 AM
William Kain

Bankruptcy-Stops-Wage-Garnishment.jpgWhen your debt goes unpaid for an extended period of time, creditors begin to take severe action to get their money from you. Depending on the nature of your debt, creditors may initiate foreclosure, repossession, bank levies or wage garnishment. Foreclosure and repossession are reserved for secured debt, meaning creditors can take back the property you secured against your loan. A bank levy, also referred to as non-wage garnishment, occurs when your bank account is frozen due to a creditor seeking payment from you. This and wage garnishment are common tactics used to collect on unsecured debt, such as credit card debt.

In Minnesota, all of the above mentioned collection actions require a lawsuit or legal judgment to be pursued by your creditors in most scenarios. There are exceptions to this rule. In the case of wage garnishment, legal action isn’t required for your creditors to begin garnishing your wages to collect unpaid income taxes, court ordered child support, child support arrears and defaulted student loans.

If you are unable to make payments on your debt and you have a source of income, creditors will begin taking money directly from your source of payment. The court will issue a wage garnishment order that will be sent directly to your employer, instructing them to withhold a specified amount of your payment and send it to your creditors.

Minnesota Wage Garnishment Regulations

As a consumer you are protected, by federal law, from having all of your income withheld. In Minnesota there are even stricter laws that limit garnishment amounts. Creditors can garnish up to 25% of your disposable income (income left after employer makes deductions required by law) or the amount by which your weekly disposable earnings exceed 40 times the federal hourly minimum wage. These laws are in place to attempt to leave you with enough money to support yourself and your family.

Federal law also protects you from job termination. If you have one garnishment order your employer cannot legally dismiss you due to the garnishment. However, if you have more than one wage garnishment order the law no longer protects you from losing your job.

lifeback 1Debt collectors may be able to garnish your wages by assistance based wage attachment garnish earnings which could be reversed if you file bankruptcy.Debt collectors may be able to garnish your wages by assistance based wage attachment garnish earnings which could be reversed if you file bankruptcy.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment occurs when a court or government agency orders your employer to withhold a part of your paycheck to pay off debts. A garnishment may be used to recover owed for credit cards, medical debt, and personal loans, as well as for child support, federal student loans, back taxes, and other government debt. It is distressing to see this process divert your hard-earned income, especially when dealing with the already challenging financial pressures that you face.

In Minnesota, the wage garnishment laws stipulate that creditors can either garnish your wages by the lesser of:

  • Up to 25% of your weekly disposable earnings; or,

  • The amount by which your weekly disposable income exceeds 40 times the federal minimum wage.

Under either calculation of wage garnishment limitations, this means the amount of money you take home can significantly decrease. You suffer a financial hardship that complicates your ability to pay for necessities like housing, utilities, and groceries.

Minnesota Wage Garnishment Laws

Understanding the Legal Framework

Minnesota wage garnishment laws are outlined under state statutes, and they are also influenced by federal law. The legal framework of wage garnishment not only specifies how much of your disposable earnings can be garnished, but it also outlines the process creditors must follow. The rules include issuing a garnishment summons and potentially a court hearing.

Exemptions and Protections

One key aspect of these laws is the range of exemptions available, which are in addition to the statutory limitations on garnishing your disposable earnings. Exemptions protect certain types of income when creditors garnish your wages. In Minnesota, these include Social Security benefits, veterans' benefits, Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and others.

Moreover, the state provides emergency assistance programs, including some based on the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). There may be exemptions for MSA emergency assistance, general assistance, medical assistance, fuel assistance, and energy assistance, which are designed to directly help those in dire financial situations.

Understanding these exemptions is crucial in defending against wage garnishment.

The Garnishment Process

The wage garnishment process in Minnesota typically begins when a creditor, who has obtained a court judgment against you, sends a garnishment notice. This document should detail the court judgment, date, amount of debt, the portion of wages to be garnished, and a statement of your rights. It will also cover how to file an exemption claim if your income includes automatically protected funds, such as those from government assistance programs.

LifeBack Law Firm can assist you in reviewing these garnishment documents and ensuring they meet legal standards. We are also prepared to advise you on how to act quickly to file for an exemption or challenge the garnishment if discrepancies are found. Whether you owe child support, unsecured debt, federal student loans, back taxes, or other debt, knowing your rights is the first step in stopping wage garnishments.

lifeback 4a work participation cash benefit can be illegal to avoid debt collector from taking earnings via wage garnishmenta work participation cash benefit can be illegal to avoid debt collector from taking earnings via wage garnishment

Immediate Steps to Take When Facing Wage Garnishment in Minnesota

When you receive a garnishment summons or other attempt to garnish your wages, it is essential to act swiftly to protect your interests. The initial steps you take can significantly impact your ability to manage or even halt the wage garnishment process.

Verify the Garnishment Notice

First, ensure that the garnishment notice you received via certified mail includes all the necessary information. Minnesota law states that this notice must inform you of the debt amount, the portion of your wages to be garnished, and details about your bank account if you receive your wages by direct deposit. The garnishment papers will also outline your rights to object or claim exemptions. Make sure to review your bank accounts and statements and compare them with the details provided in the notice to ensure accuracy.

Filing an Exemption Claim

If you believe your income includes funds that should be automatically protected under federal or Minnesota law, you must file a debtor’s exemption claim notice. For instance, you will need to address exemptions for such premium payments as Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, or VA benefits. By doing so, you prevent the garnishment of money that is legally exempt from the process. For residents receiving Minnesota Supplemental Aid or participating in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, additional protections may apply.

Seek Legal Advice

Engaging with a knowledgeable attorney from LifeBack Law Firm can provide crucial guidance on how to properly manage your exemptions and prepare for a potential court hearing. If your disposable income is primarily from government assistance programs like emergency assistance, general assistance, medical assistance, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our lawyers can help ensure that these funds remain protected.

Legal Exemptions and Protections in Minnesota

Understanding the exemptions available under Minnesota and federal law can provide a pathway to reducing or stopping wage garnishment.

Common Exemptions

You can benefit from reviewing some of the common exemptions that Minnesotans may claim:

Government Benefits: Social Security, veterans benefits, and other government assistance payments are typically exempt from garnishment.

Child Support and Alimony: These payments are also protected to ensure that minors and dependent spouses are not unduly affected by wage garnishment.

Retirement and Pensions: Funds held in these accounts are generally safe from creditors to secure your financial future.

Additionally, if your only source of income is from programs like the MFIP diversionary work program or emergency general assistance, these are usually exempt from garnishment. It is critical to make sure you formally claim these exemptions through the proper channels.

How to Claim an Exemption

To claim an exemption from garnishment summons, you must submit an exemption claim notice to the court detailing the earnings and assets that are exempt from garnishment. Providing evidence such as bank account statements or benefit award letters is essential. All necessary tasks must be completed promptly after receiving garnishment paperwork to ensure your funds remain shielded.

lifeback 2wage garnishment order or garnishment summons can be helped by filing bankruptcy for a wage garnishment exemption notice.wage garnishment order or garnishment summons can be helped by filing bankruptcy for a wage garnishment exemption notice.

Advanced Defense Strategies Against Wage Garnishment

For those facing wage garnishment in Minnesota, there are several strategic approaches to consider, which can effectively reduce or eliminate the impact of garnishment.

Negotiating with Creditors

Often, creditors are open to negotiating a payment plan that can prevent the need for court orders or wage garnishment. By proposing a realistic plan that reflects your financial capability, you may persuade a creditor to halt wage garnishments or other proceedings in favor of receiving regular, agreed-upon payments.

Filing Bankruptcy

As a more definitive measure, filing for bankruptcy can immediately stop most garnishments. This legal process can reset your financial status by discharging many types of debt, and it can be a strategic move toward a brighter future. Filing a bankruptcy petition triggers the automatic stay, which prohibits creditors from continuing with garnishment or other debt collection actions.

Challenging the Garnishment

If there are errors in the garnishment documents or the creditor has not followed proper legal procedures under Minnesota statutes and federal law, challenging the garnishment in court is another effective strategy. This may require a detailed examination of the garnishment papers, court order, creditor’s proof of claim, and the original judgment creditor documentation.

By leveraging these critical steps and legal strategies, Minnesotans can better manage or prevent wage garnishment. LifeBack Law Firm stands ready to assist with comprehensive legal advice tailored to your unique financial situation, helping you to reclaim control and move towards financial recovery.

How LifeBack Bankruptcy Law Firm Can Help

At LifeBack Law Firm, we focus on providing dedicated support to Minnesotans dealing with wage garnishments. Our expertise spans all aspects of wage garnishment laws and debtor protection strategies under both state and federal law.

Here's how we can assist you:

Legal Representation and Advocacy

Our skilled attorneys represent clients at court hearings and negotiations, ensuring your rights are vigorously defended. Whether it's disputing a garnishment order or presenting a strong case for exemptions, LifeBack Law Firm stands by your side. We understand the critical nature of timely legal intervention, especially when your take-home pay and financial stability are at stake.

Filing Exemption Claims

We guide you through the process of filing an exemption to protect your wages. This involves:

  • Preparing the debtor's exemption notice and claim notice

  • Gathering necessary documentation, such as bank statements and proof of income

  • Submitting all necessary paperwork in accordance with Minnesota statutes

Our team ensures that your claim is robust and backed by solid evidence to maximize the chances of safeguarding your earnings.

Bankruptcy Counseling

For many, filing bankruptcy can be a viable solution to stop garnishments and reset their financial circumstances. LifeBack Law Firm provides comprehensive counseling on the implications of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, helping you understand how the process can impact your debts, including those from credit card companies, medical bills, and federal student loans. We understand the complexities of bankruptcy law to find the best path forward for bankruptcy based on your unique situation.

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Getting Help with Wage Garnishment in Minnesota

Wage garnishment can place a significant strain on your finances and personal life, but you don't have to face it alone. LifeBack Law Firm is committed to helping individuals in Minnesota protect their earnings and regain control over their financial futures. Our deep understanding of Minnesota wage garnishment laws and effective legal strategies enables us to provide clients with the best possible outcomes.

lifeback 3a debt creditor after a court date notice tells the court order to garnish money directly as garnished money unless you can file bankruptcy and get a court order to stop wage garnishmenta debt creditor after a court date notice tells the court order to garnish money directly as garnished money unless you can file bankruptcy and get a court order to stop wage garnishment

Stop Wage Garnishment

If your wages are being garnished the only way to immediately stop them is to file bankruptcy – chapter 7 or chapter 13.

Both bankruptcies immediately stop all creditor actions through what is referred to as an “automatic stay.” The Official Website of the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General explains the automatic stay as follows:

  • […] the automatic stay can buy you a few days or weeks in which to figure out your next move. If your primary motivation in filing bankruptcy is to gain the benefits of the automatic stay, you don't need to file all of your papers at once. You just need to file the two-page petition and a listing of your creditors. You have 15 days in which to file the rest of your papers. If you don't, your case will be dismissed
  • Once you file, a creditor cannot take further action against you unless the creditor has permission from the bankruptcy court. The creditor will ask the bankruptcy court to remove (or "lift") the automatic stay if it is not serving its intended purpose.

If your wages aren’t being garnished yet, try to talk to your creditors and work out a repayment plan that is manageable for you. If they will not cooperate or listen to your requests, it is time to seek professional help and begin to research your options. A bankruptcy attorney can assist in guiding you toward the right option for your specific financial predicament. Our Debt Solutions 101 eBook can introduce you to your options and begin to clarify for you, which debt solutions work best in varying circumstances.

If you're struggling with wage garnishment in Minnesota, act quickly to safeguard your assets and income. Contact LifeBack Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. We're here to help you assess your situation, explore your options, and implement a strategy that aims to restore your financial independence.


Topics: Bankruptcy, Wage Garnishment

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