Can a creditor garnish my unemployment benefits before I file for bankruptcy?

No.

Your unemployment benefits are exempt (protected) from garnishment, unless you are being garnished for back taxes, child support/alimony, or for overpayment of unemployment benefits.

Utah Code 78B-5-505  protects those benefits, and states, in part:

78B-5-505. Property exempt from execution.
(1) (a) An individual is entitled to exemption of the following property:
(i) a burial plot for the individual and the individual’s family;
(ii) health aids reasonably necessary to enable the individual or a dependent to work or sustain health;
(iii) benefits the individual or the individual’s dependent have received or are entitled to receive from any source because of:
(A) disability;
(B) illness; or
(C) unemployment;

So, no, a creditor cannot garnish your unemployment.

But, if that money is deposited into a joint account with your spouse who is working, the creditor could garnish that money from the bank account and then dare you to prove to the court that the money had not been co-mingled (which may have made it lose its exempt status).  It is safest to deposit your unemployment directly onto a card, or deposit it into an account which has no other monies in it.

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