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Stop Garnishments Immediately in Minnesota


Have you received a Summons and Complaint from Messerli & Kramer or Gurstel Chargo or another law firm? You may about to be garnished.

Garnishment is a legal process by which a creditor tries to get money from your bank account or paycheck. Before the creditor can garnish wages or a bank account, the creditor must get a judgment against you. This requires that the creditor go through the legal process. First, the creditor must serve you with a lawsuit (called a “Summons and Complaint”) regarding the debt that it claims you owe. Once you are served with the summons and complaint, you have 20 days to file an Answer. The answer is a written response to the complaint. You must file your answer with the court. The court will charge you a filing fee for this. While filing fees vary by county, the are typically steep. For example, Hennepin County filing fee for both the Plaintiff and Defendant is $322.00. IMPORTANT: no court date will be set if you do not file an answer. If you do not file an answer to the lawsuit on time, Minnesota law allows the creditor to obtain a Default Judgment. The default judgment is the court finding for the Plaintiff (the creditor) by default as the Defendant (you) did not put forth a defense (i.e., an answer). Once the creditor has the default judgment, they can begin the garnishment process. To begin the “garnishment” process, the creditor sends a “garnishment summons” to your bank or employer (known as the “garnishee”). If you are served with a summons and complaint regarding debt, call Atlas Law Firm today to schedule a FREE consultation.

IMPORTANT: If you call the court, it may not have any information about the case even though you received a summons and complaint. In Minnesota, a Plaintiff can serve you with a summons and complaint without filing it with the court (to save costs on the filing fee). Then, if you do not file an answer with the court within 20 days, the Plaintiff can then file the complaint to obtain the default judgment against you. The court will have no information of the summons and complaint until something is filed with the court. Just because the court has no listing of a case or your garnishment does NOT mean that you can ignore the lawsuit or garnishment papers. You MUST take action to avoid your wages or bank account being garnished.

There are limitations on a creditor’s ability to garnish wages. First, unless the judgment is for child support or back taxes, creditors cannot garnish more than 25% of your net wages (the earnings that remain after deducting all taxes). Second, you may be able to claim that your income is “exempt” from being garnished if certain conditions are met.

You should receive notice before your wages are garnished. The notice is called “Garnishment Exemption Notice and Notice of Intent to Garnish Earnings.” Enclosed with the notice will be a “Debtor’s Exemption Claim Notice.” This notice is sent only 10 days prior to the garnishment beginning. To claim that wages cannot be taken (i.e. are “exempt” from garnishment), you must promptly return to the creditor’s attorney the “Debtor’s Exemption Claim Notice” with a copy of the last 60 days of your bank statements. Calling the creditor is not enough. If the creditor’s attorney does not receive this exemption notice with the bank statements within 10 days, the creditor can seek to get money from your employer. Your income may be exempt from garnishment if:

  • Your net wages are less than $262 per week.
  • You receive public assistance based on need (or have received such assistance in the last 6 months).

Assistance based on need includes such programs as:
– Minnesota Family Investment Program;
– Work First Program;
– Medical Assistance;
– General Assistance;
– General Assistance Medical Care;
– Emergency General Assistance;
– Minnesota Supplemental Aid;
– MSA Emergency Assistance;
– Supplemental Security Income;
– Energy Assistance and Emergency Assistance.

  • Some sources of income are exempt from garnishment. They include the following:

– social security benefits;
– unemployment benefits,
– workers’ compensation,
– veterans’ benefits;
– an accident, disability, or retirement pension or annuity;
– life insurance proceeds;
– earnings of your minor child.

If your earnings are garnished after you claim an exemption, you may petition the court for a determination of your exemption. If the creditor disregarded your claim of exemption in bad faith, you will be entitled to costs, reasonable attorneys’ fees, damages, and an amount not to exceed $100. Note that if a creditor disagrees with your claim of exemption, the creditor can also petition the court for a determination of your exemption, and if the court finds that you claimed an exemption in bad faith, you will be assessed costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees plus an amount not to exceed $100.
The process for garnishing your bank account is very similar. The creditor cannot simultaneously garnish your wages and your bank account. Your bank account can be garnished 60 days after your wages have been garnished. IMPORTANT: the creditor can attempt to garnish any bank account that has your name on it. If the funds in the account are not yours, you will have to fight the creditor in court to get them back. It is best to stop the garnishment before it goes through. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Call Atlas Law Firm to schedule a FREE consultation.

If the creditor is trying to get money from your bank account, the bank will “freeze” enough money in your account to pay off your debt to the creditor. You will not receive notice of the bank garnishment until after your funds are frozen. You will not have access to your funds while they are frozen. Your checks may bounce, and you may incur overdraft charges during this time. Some money in your bank account may be “exempt” from garnishment. The same exemptions as listed above apply to garnishment of bank accounts. But, you must timely fill out the proper paperwork. You must return the exemption notice to the bank (and the creditor’s attorney) within 14 days. Calling the creditor is not enough. You should include copies of documents (i.e. benefit letters, bank statements, etc.) to show why your funds are exempt, and you will need to include your bank statements for the last 60 days. A list of some of the funds exempt from garnishment is set forth below. If you don’t claim an exemption within 14 days from the date the bank mailed the exemption notice to you, the bank may turn over your frozen funds to the creditor.

If you do claim an exemption within the time allowed, the bank will “unfreeze” your funds and release them to you in six days unless the creditor objects to your exemption claim. If the creditor objects, they must send you a written objection to your exemption claim, along with a form entitled “A Notice of Objection and Notice of Hearing.” On this notice will be your court hearing date and time, which will be not less than five days and not more than seven days from the date of the creditor’s objection. You may request a different hearing date. To request a new hearing date, you must contact the creditor and the court before the date of your hearing. The new date must be within seven days of the original hearing date. You must attend the court hearing with all the documents you have to support your exemption and show the judge why you believe your funds are exempt. You can ask the judge to order the creditor to pay you $100 if you believe the creditor did not have good cause to object to your “exemption claim.” No more than three days after the hearing, the court must issue its decision whether or not the funds are exempt.

If you don’t claim any exemptions, creditors can take part of your paycheck for the next 70 days. Excluding child support, you get to keep either 75% of your net wages or 40 times the minimum wage, whichever is greater. Bankruptcy ceases garnishment immediately. Call us today for a FREE consultation to explore your options.

Wage Garnishment

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Michael Sheridan, Esq.

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