Bankruptcy can help you stop garnishments, bank levies, and liens. If your wages have already been garnished or your bank accounts levied, you may be able to get that money back.
But, let’s back up a bit.
Keep in mind, a debt buyer or creditor usually must sue you and get a judgment against you before it can pursue a garnishment, bank levy, or lien.*
But, sometimes creditors or debt buyers will threaten you with garnishments, bank account seizure, and liens even when they do not have a judgment against you. These threats are usually a violation of federal and state debt collection laws. You should contact an attorney if a debt buyer or creditor has threatened you in this way.
But, suppose the debt buyer or creditor has a valid judgment against you. And, they are trying to garnish your wages, seize your bank account, or file a lien on your property.
It is very important to remember there are still some things you can do.
- Your funds may be exempt from garnishment or levy under federal or state law.
- If your funds are exempt, you will need to file exemption paperwork with the Sheriff handling the levy. This is not an automatic process. You must file your exemptions very quickly.
- You may be able to challenge a garnishment, bank account levy, or lien on procedural grounds.
- If you file bankruptcy, you may be able to recover funds that have already been taken from your paycheck, bank accounts, or other assets.
- In bankruptcy, you may be able to “undo” or “avoid” a lien that has already been filed.
- If you are trying to get back funds already taken from you via garnishment or levy, you often need to file bankruptcy within 90 days of the garnishment or levy.
- Don’t put off calling a bankruptcy attorney if you are trying get back garnished or levied funds!
*Exceptions: some taxing authorities, child support enforcement agencies, and student loan creditors do not need to get judgments before they can garnish, levy, or file a lien on your assets.