75% of Wages Being Garnished to Pay for Ex-Wife’s Bills: What is the Best Recourse?

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“My brother got divorced in Kansas a few years ago.  At the time he was sharing an apartment with his wife and daughter and it was in his name.  In the divorce papers she filed, he was ordered to leave the apartment, and she was to take over paying for the bills.  He talked to the apartment complex, and because she didn’t make enough money, they wouldn’t take his name off the lease.  The cable was also in his name.  He found out about six months ago that she stopped paying both of these bills at some point, and both were in collection in his name.  He paid the cable bill, but didn’t have the money for the back rent.  The apartment complex has now filed a judgment for their money, and are garnishing 75% of his paychecks to pay it.  They told him they couldn’t garnish her wages because she’s not a full-time employee.  He also can’t afford a lawyer.  I recommended he go to small claims court and try to get some of his money back from her, using the divorce documents saying those bills were her responsibility after a certain date.  Would he have a good case going this route?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

That is a very good idea, and depending on the state in which your brother and his ex live, small claims court may be a good way to go.  Different small claims courts have different requirements for what type (and amount) of case can be brought to small claims court.

There are several other questions raised by your description of the situation, such as where did the ex-wife and daughter end up, as presumably they were unable to stay in the apartment after not paying rent for six months.  If due to mom’s failure to pay the bills, the daughter was put in a situation where she ended up homeless, he may want to consider looking into pursuing a change of custody.

Also, while you did not raise the question, it is important to note that he can *not* withhold child support to offset the unpaid rent and cable bills, and he would get in a great deal of trouble for doing so.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.