If your wages are being garnished to pay off a creditor's judgment, you probably want to know when the wage garnishment will end. The wage garnishment will end when:
- you pay off the debt
- you settle the debt, or
- the court forces the creditor to stop the garnishment.
To learn about wage garnishments, including when they can happen, who can garnish your wages, when you can object, and more, see our Wage Garnishment topic area.
Paying Off the Debt Through Garnishment
If the creditor proceeds with the garnishment (that is, you don't settle the debt or get the court to stop it), the creditor will reduce your total balance by the amount of money taken from each paycheck.
Paying interest. In addition, for many types of debts you will also have to pay interest. For example, if the garnishment is due to a money judgment, often you must pay 2% to 18% interest on top of the principal balance, depending on your state’s laws. A large interest will make the underlying debt that much more difficult to pay off.
Once the principal and interest are paid off, the garnishment ends.
Ideally, you will be able to pay off the total balance in a relatively short amount of time without too much financial hardship on your part. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. A large principle balance combined with a large interest rate means that you may find it hard to pay off the balance without encountering significant financial difficulty.
Getting Rid of the Garnishment by Settling the Debt
A creditor almost always prefers to receive one lump sum payment for a lesser sum than the full amount paid in smaller, periodic payments over time. For that reason, the creditor may agree to settle the debt for less than the amount you owe. If you can get some cash to do this, and you settle the debt, the garnishment will end. (To learn more, see Debt Settlement & Negotiation With Creditors.)
Forcing the Creditor to Stop Garnishing Your Wages
Federal law and each state’s law afford you several options to stop a creditor from garnishing your wages.
File a Claim of Exemption
In certain circumstances, states allow you to protect some of your wages -- these are referred to as exemptions.” By filing a claim of exemption with the court, you are asking the court to totally or partially stop the creditor’s garnishment of your wages. Learn more about claiming exemptions to protect your wages.
File For Bankruptcy
Filing for bankruptcy immediately terminates most types of wage garnishments and may even eliminate the underlying debt if you can successfully complete your bankruptcy case. (To learn more, see our articles on the automatic stay in bankruptcy.)