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A Little Mercy Please

Garnishment – the dreaded word. Garnishment is when a creditor reaches into your paycheck each month and pockets a certain amount, which is then applied toward what you owe that creditor. My guess is that most people think of garnishment in relation to child support payments. But garnishment can happen anytime you have an outstanding unpaid judgment against you.

For this entry, assume that the creditor obtained a judgment against the debtor. Through post-judgment discovery (a court-sanctioned investigation of the debtor’s assets and income), the creditor finds out that the debtor works in a local factory and makes $500.00 a week in gross income. State and Federal laws restrict how much a creditor can garnish from any individual’s wages. The calculation varies depending on how much the individual makes. In this case, assume the creditor can garnish $75.00 out of each paycheck of the debtor.

Our debtor does not make a lot of money, but he supports a large family on his $500.00 a week, including his wife, three children, and his elderly mother. The $75.00 less a week make a huge difference in his ability to support his family. Is there anything he can do for relief?

Yes. Buried among the procedural guidelines, is a small but helpful section: 735 ILCS 5/2-1402(C)(2). This section gives the court discretion to reduce the amount that can be garnished from the debtor. Specifically, the court can take into consideration “the reasonable requirements of the judgment debtor and his or her family, if dependent upon him or her.” This language does not guarantee that a judge will reduce the amount to be garnished, but it does mean that the debtor can plead for mercy. Instead of allowing $75.00 to be taken out each week, an understanding judge might knock the amount down to $35.00 a week, which will go a long way in helping the debtor take care of his family.  

Concluding remarks: If you’re facing a potential garnishment that will impact your ability to provide for your family, ask the judge for a little mercy, and remind him that the legislature has given him the authority to extend that mercy.

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