Owe someone money? Be warned, they may take you to court. A recent analysis by ProPublica finds that millions of Americans are facing court hearings over old debts.
What can a court do about debt?
Courts come into play when the creditor takes the person that allegedly owes them money to court to demand payment. A variety of remedies are available to the creditor in the event the court rules in their favor. One example involves allowing the creditor to garnish your wages. This means a sum of money is taken right out of your paycheck, before you get paid.
In addition to taking funds right out of your earnings, creditors may also be able to clear out your bank account. In some cases, a garnishment judgment can give the creditor the ability to access your savings accounts. If the account does not have enough to cover the debt, the creditor can take it all.
How common is it to have your wages garnished?
According to the piece by ProPublica, over four million Americans had their wages garnished in 2013 alone. This number is large in part due to the lack of legal representation for those struggling with debt. Creditors are far more likely to attend these court hearings with legal representation than those who must defend themselves against these demands.
How long do I have to worry about garnishment?
Unfortunately, the possibility of garnishment can last for many, many years after the debt was accumulated. In some areas, a judgment for garnishment can last ten years. Even when it expires, it can be renewed.
What can I do if I am struggling with debt?
Those who are struggling with debt have options. In some cases, bankruptcy may be a better alternative to managing the debt on your own. If approved, a petition to bankruptcy leads to a court ordered automatic stay. This order requires creditors to cease their attempts at seeking payment.