For people living on a tight budget, a garnishment can be the difference between making ends meet and falling further into debt. If you are being garnished and you are considering bankruptcy, you should know that you may be able to recover money taken from you by your creditors, but the garnishment must meet certain requirements for you to get your money back.
First, the timing of the garnishment determines whether you can recover any of the money taken from you. If money was garnished from you before you file for bankruptcy, that money can only be recovered if it was taken within the immediate 90 day period before filing your case. For example, if you filed your bankruptcy case on November 1, 2014, you could recover money garnished up to 90 days before that date (August 3 to November 1). However, you could not recover any money taken earlier than that 90-day period (in our example, before August 3). Additionally, if your creditors continue to garnish any of your money after you file for bankruptcy, that money can be also recovered for you.
Second, the amount of the garnishment within the past 90 days can determine whether you can recover money taken from you by your creditors. The amount of money taken from you within the past 90 days must be $600 or more for you to be able to recover that money. If the amount taken from you is less than $600 total in the past 90 days, you will unfortunately not be able to recover that money in bankruptcy. (But, note that if your creditors continue to garnish money from you after you file for bankruptcy, any amount that they take after you file can be recovered for you).
Third, it is only worth recovering money garnished from you if you are able to protect that amount of money as an asset in your case. Whether you can protect the money you recover depends upon the value of other property that you own and that you want to protect in bankruptcy. It can be a complex question, but your bankruptcy attorney will be able to walk you through what property can be protected when you file for bankruptcy.
Finally, garnishments are only worth recovering if the garnishment is from a type of debt that can be discharged in bankruptcy. Certain debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy (you will still owe these debts after your bankruptcy). Debts such as student loans, alimony, child support, and recent tax debt, will remain after bankruptcy. There will not be any point in recovering a garnishment for one of these types of debt, as you will still owe that debt after bankruptcy.