A common tactic used by creditors attempting to collect money from you is to attach your wages, which essentially forces you to make a payment to them out of every pay check.  This, along with a bank levy, are the two most commonly used tools in a creditor's toolbox.  There are three things to bear in mind should a creditor attempt to attach your pay in New Jersey.

How Much of My Wages Can They Take?

First, there is a cap on what can be collected out of each pay.  This cap consists of the lowest amount of:

  • 10% of your gross wages
  • 25% of your net wages
  • the amount by which your net wages exceed $217.50 per week

Although this is the calculation in the New Jersey statute, and is applied on a case by case basis, in my experience, for most people, it boils down to 10% of the gross.

Can the Wage Garnishment Take Less?

These caps are set by New Jersey law, but judges have the discretion to lessen the withholding after a hearing. For this reason, you should not take a fatalistic approach and assume there is nothing you can do.

How Do I Go About Lowering It?

If you ever want the chance to lower the deduction, you need to be pro-active. When a creditor is seeking to garnish your wages, it needs to send a Notice of Wage Garnishment first. You then have 10 days from receipt to object.

Don't wait; object right away!

File an objection with the court and request a hearing. Then gather together paystubs and bills for living expenses. You need to show that your net income would not allow you to pay your basic costs of living (e.g. mortgage/rent, food, gas & electric, water & sewer, gasoline, car payment) if the statutory deduction was made.

Don't try to overreach. The expenses themselves should be the basics, and the amounts for each should be reasonable. For example, don't list monthly figures of $400 for food, $300 for entertainment, or $300 for clothing, when it's just you (no spouse or children).

Bear in mind, the creditor will still get a piece of your pay, but at least you will have minimized it.

But Look at the Big Picture

The bigger issue is that you owe money to this creditor, and chances are, they aren't the only one. If there are other creditors seeking payment, they could be getting in line behind this one, so that once that garnishment is over, the next one will begin! This could go on for years (assuming you stay with that employer).

You need to do something about your debt. If it is only a few thousand, then you should make payment arrangements with all of them to resolve the balances in a reasonable amount of time (no more than 3 years).

But if you have at least $12-15,000 in debt (especially credit cards at a high interest rate), making payment arrangements may well not be practical. Trying to do so could well create great stress and frustration and not lead to a practical resolution.

Bankruptcy Stops Wage Garnishments

Sometimes you just need a fresh start, so as to get on with your life. You need to get rid of that debt that is weighing you down and causing untold stress. Get rid of the wage garnishments, don't live in fear that your bank account will be levied, and stop worrying about whether you will be able to make the next mortgage or car payment.

Naturally, the decision to file bankruptcy should be made after careful consideration and review of your financial situation. It should not be made out of fear or desperation.

If you need help in making this decision, then download my free book, Am I In Too Deep; A guide to Knowing If You Need to File Bankruptcy in New Jersey.

Still not sure if bankruptcy is right for you? Take the quiz to the right to find out more!

Made the Decision That You Need to File?

If you live in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland County, New Jersey, have decided that you need to file bankruptcy, and are ready to take action, then call my office at 856-432-4113 to schedule an appointment to discuss representation. I have represented innumerable people file bankruptcy over the past 25+ years, and I can do the same for you.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.

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