For anyone who has ever had the misfortune of trying to survive under the heavy weight of a garnishment, you know just how debilitating it can be. This problem that I see all too often in my line of work as a bankruptcy attorney in Oklahoma City Oklahoma prompts this post.
Obviously, the best way to steer clear of a garnishment is to avoid it in the first place. If paying the debt is just not an option you can try to negotiate a smaller lump-sum payoff or even smaller monthly payments. If this is not possible and there is no hope of clearing the debt, you may have to consider filing bankruptcy. If, for whatever reason, that is simply not an option or it is an option that you cannot take advantage of just yet and the garnishment inevitably hits there are a few steps you can take in the State of Oklahoma.
Here in Oklahoma, when you get a notice that a garnishment has commenced, you will be given some forms. One of these forms is a Request for Exemption and Hardship Hearing form. This form allows you to let the court know whether the assets in jeopardy are protected by an exemption. This form also allows you to request a hardship hearing. Under the laws of the State of Oklahoma, if granting a garnishment would create a “hardship” for you, the judge has some discretion to reduce or eliminate the garnishment. This only applies if you have dependants, however.
Now, having said this, the judge still has to determine if a “hardship” exists. If the judge in your case is anything like the judge that I recently presented before, it is a good possibility that your situation will not rise to the level of a hardship. But the hearing did give the debtors a unique opportunity to work out a payment plan more on their own terms. The judge flat out said that it was highly unlikely for her to find that anyone was under a severe enough hardship as she had only granted 7 out of the thousands of hearings that she had been involved with.
It is very possible that the creditor has given their attorney a set of guidelines for settlement in anticipation of the hearing. It is very possible that their guidelines set out bottom-line numbers that are significantly less than what the garnishment would be. It is therefore incumbent upon you to go into any negotiation with them prepared with numbers in mind as to what you could comfortably pay in a payment plan without breaking the bank. Then of course you have to fight for it. Just as an example. I have seen cases where the creditor gave a bottom line number of less than $100 per month, whereas the garnishment was drawing over $400 per month.
Perhaps in other County Courts they might do things a little differently. They might even actually hold all the hearings. If this is the case, come prepared to make your case. Tell your story and see if the judge sympathizes with your plight.