Dear Bankruptcy Adviser,
My husband and I are in our 70s and we have no savings or home any longer. Our credit card debt has drained us. I still work a 40-hour week for the income and insurance coverage. I can’t keep this up much longer as I have a heart condition. HELP!

Phyllis

Dear Phyllis,
It sounds as if you’re trying to make good decisions to benefit you and your husband and still trying to shoulder the burden of your debt. Now it’s time to see if we can lighten your load a little — or even a lot.

I recommend talking to a bankruptcy attorney to see if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This would have the effect of wiping your credit card debt away and giving you a fresh start. You’ll have limited access to credit, but you’ll be able to keep all of your income.

If you are unable to pay your creditors (the credit card companies) before declaring bankruptcy, your wages will likely be garnished. This means that the creditor will sue you, get a judgment against you, file a motion with the court, and then send notification through the local sheriff’s office to your employer. Your employer will then start to take up to 25 percent of your income to pay the creditor.

This is how wage garnishments occur in general, but there are local variations. For example, in Texas, a normal judgment creditor cannot garnish your wages, but can garnish them for delinquent taxes or child support. A bankruptcy attorney will best be able to explain the potential risks.

Don’t let this happen. Do your best to avoid wage garnishment by continuing to pay your bills until you’ve eliminated your debt through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I hope that will give you the financial cushion that you greatly deserve.

Justin Harelik is a practicing bankruptcy lawyer in the Los Angeles office of Price Law Group. To ask a question of the Bankruptcy Adviser go to the “Ask the Experts” page, and select “bankruptcy” as the topic.