by John G. Merna, Esq.
Virginia garnishment laws are not on the books to protect you from your creditors. Virginia garnishment laws are available to your creditors to take your property.
Let’s look at it from our point of view. The point of view that …. well, doesn’t want them to get…..anything.
Virginia Garnishment Law
Before anyone can garnish you, excluding government entities and some very narrow, unusual exceptions, they have to sue you. The trust purpose of a lawsuit is to get the judicial stamp of approval that you owe the debt to the creditor who sued you. Just one important point of clarification. A lawsuit is not generally about why you can’t pay the debt. The court doesn’t care. They only care if you owe it and/or whether you have some defense as to why you should not owe it. So not to be too insensitive, but don’t go to court and whine to the judge about how your overtime was cut. He doesn’t care. He will give the judgment to the creditor and leave it to the creditor’s pleasure whether he wants to discuss a payment plan or not. So to recap: Judgment = Judicial Confirmation That The Debt Is Owed.
So What Does A Judgment Mean Really?
What a judgment means to you and the creditor is that the court has granted three magical powers to the creditor to assist in collecting the debt. It grants them the ability to lien, levy and garnish. Let’s better understand these three magical powers.
The first magical power is the ability to put a lien on your house or personal property. To do this the creditor has to take an “abstract of judgment” from the court and record it in the “Land Records”. The Land Records Department is found in the county or city where you or your property is located. It is the same place the title or deed to your house is recorded. Once the judgment lien is place on the “records,” it is liened against any real property, land or a home, in that city or county. A judgment in general district court requires a physical act to place the lien. A judgment in circuit court becomes an automatic lien. Does the lien happen immediately? No. In both cases, there is a 10-day appeal period after the judgment. A lien can not be placed during this time.
Levy, the second magical power, has many definitions. In this case I am referring to the ability to execute or take personal property such as a vehicle or furniture. The mechanism for levying on these items is by writ of fieri facias. Fieri faciasis a writ of execution after judgment is obtained in a legal action for debt or damages. With this writ, a creditor can have the sheriff serve the writ and then recover the listed items. Sounds scary. It is not often used. But when it is used it can be quite inconvenient.
The third magical power bestowed upon creditors is the power to garnish. This is the most feared power in the kingdom because not only can the creditor garnish your wages but your bank accounts too. A Virginia garnishment on a bank account can vacuum all the funds from your account up to the amount owed in an ….. well, it’s already gone. That fast.
A Virginia garnishment of wages is equally unannounced. If you are lucky, your payroll department will let you know they received the Virginia garnishment summons. If not, your announcement is the deduction on your paystub and the absence of part of your income in your account. How big a part? The going rate for creditors is 25%. Ouch.
Okay, so now you know this is not a fairy tale. This is a nightmare. So how do you defend against these magical powers?
What Can Bankruptcy Do To Stop A Virginia Garnishment?
First, a little reality check for those of you that are still thinking this is a fairy tale and are in fairy land about your creditor. If your first thought was that “Bankruptcy will hurt my credit,” then you are dwelling in the land of fairies.
Wake up. Let’s recap and review a few assumptions. 1) If you are reading this, it is likely you are about to be garnished. This means 2) you did not pay a debt which has by now completely ruined your credit. If these assumptions are true then 3) it is likely you have not paid other accounts. And 4) remember you had to be sued to get garnished so 5) the judgment is already on your credit also. This all leads to 6) which is your credit rating is worse than if you had a bankruptcy on it and…. 7) Think about it. Can you really afford to lose 25% of your check? End reality check.
So back to what a bankruptcy can do for you.
1) Stop the Virginia garnishment immediately. 2) In most cases, we can recover the money taken if you move quickly. 3) End the harassing calls from creditors. 4) Stop all the negative credit reporting that has been hammering your score. And 5) put you in a position where your score will recover to the point of even being able to buy a house in two years. Sound like a fairy tale? It is the only fairy tale in town. Your choice: nightmare or fairy tale?
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Authors note: “Virginia Garnishments” are specifically mentioned through out the article to make it clear that The Merna Law Group is a Virginia law firm. We can stop Virginia garnishments only.
by John G. Merna