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“Help! My wages are being garnished. I don’t know how it happened. How can I get it stopped?” Can it go on for years? WE STOPPED IT!

WE CAN ASSIST.  We often hear someone say that their wages are being garnished and they don't know how it happened.  Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do.  You may have lost most of your ability to dispute the debt once there is a Judgment against you.  If you don’t remember much about how it came to be, it’s probably because the creditor got a default judgment against you.  Debt collectors love default judgment, because it’s an easy win for them.  It happens when they file a lawsuit against you, and you just ignore it (don't do that) – hoping it will go away or thinking you’ll deal with it later.  But if you don’t answer the lawsuit, you’ve just defaulted and the creditor can get a default judgment against you. 

The amounts – and your responsibility to pay them – are now set and the debt collector will have the assistance of the courts to collect those amounts through execution of that judgment – wage attachment, lien on your property, sheriff sale. 

It is difficult to open up a default judgment, but it’s not impossible.  Once that default judgment has been entered, the rule is that you have forfeited the right to present the defenses you may have had to that alleged debt.  And the older the judgment, the harder it is to attack it.  But, as with most rules, there are some exceptions.

Debtors are often surprised to see the amount of a default judgment.  It can be many times greater than the amount that they remember owing to the creditor.  That is often because added to the original amount of the debt, the judgment includes attorney’s fees and exorbitant interest, as high as 29.99%.     A creditor is allowed to include these additional amounts in the default judgment, but only if it can prove that your original agreement called for you to pay these additional costs. 

And in Delaware, as in many states, the creditor has to show the court documentation to prove that it is entitled to attorney’s fees and a high rate of interest.  If the creditor has gotten a default judgment without showing these documents, this is one of the exceptions where you may be able to go back and alter the default judgment.  Many times, the debt has been purchased at pennies on the dollar and the new owner of the debt – the one pursuing you in court – does not have the original documents and doesn’t really know whether you agreed to pay attorney’s fees and exorbitant interest.

So, for instance, where a credit card company sued our client recover a $13,000 bill and the debtor failed to answer the suit, the credit card company got a judgment for the $13,000 plus over $3,000 in attorney’s fees and 18% interest. Then the company got a wage garnishment and over 6 years collected more than $27,000 and was still collecting.  It could have gone on for years with thousands more dollars accruing, but our client came to us with her problem.

In this case, the credit card company overreached.  They cut some corners and got their default judgment without presenting any evidence that the debtor was required to pay attorney’s fees and 18% interest. 

HOW WE HELPED:  Here, we asked the judge to go back 6 years and look again at the default judgment.  He agreed and saw that the debt collector had not followed the court’s rules and had not presented the necessary documents.  The judge removed the attorney’s fees and 18% interest from the judgment.  The debtor still had to pay the legal rate of interest, but that was only 5.75%. 

THE CLIENT WAS PAID BACK.  When the amounts were recalculated, the Court said that the credit card company had collected too much money.  Not only did it have to stop the wage garnishment, it was actually ordered to pay back to the debtor almost $7,000. 

TAKE ACTION AGAINST DEBT COLLECTORS.  You have the right to be free of harassment and intimidation during the collection of a debt. If you believe that your rights have been violated, contact the Law Office of Mary Higgins to schedule a free consultation.  See our website at letsbelegal.com.

Call Mary Higgins at 302-894-4357 or email today at mary.higgins@letsbelegal.com.

 Thank you for reading my post.  I write about consumer debt collection practices (sometimes with a focus on the State of Delaware).  If you would like to read my future posts then please ‘FOLLOW’ on LinkedIn.

Posted on August 30, 2016