Garnishment is a legal process in which a portion of a debtor's wages are withheld from his pay and given to a creditor. Every state allows garnishment as a means to collect child support, including past due child support, but garnishment to recover money owed from a divorce settlement is tricky. Many state laws protect debtors and do not allow wage garnishment except for child support, taxes, student loans and court fees. However, you can levy the money held in your ex-spouses bank account as an alternative.
Determine whether your state allows garnishment for divorce settlements. To find out, ask the attorney who assisted with your divorce, consult with a new attorney or ask the court clerk at the courthouse where your divorce was finalized.
File a motion seeking your ex-spouse be found in contempt of court at the courthouse where the divorce was granted. Motion forms are available from the court clerk and can also be purchased from legal document websites.
Explain to the judge at the hearing how your ex-spouse has failed to comply with the court order. Specifically, you need to state how you have tried to collect the money owed but despite your collection efforts, your ex-spouse has failed to pay in accordance with the divorce settlement.
Ask the court to issue a judgment for the amount owed plus interest. If your state allows for garnishment for divorce settlements or alimony, also ask that the judgment include a garnishment order.
Take the judgment to your ex-spouses bank to levy his bank account if you were unable to have his wages garnished. Similarly, you can also take the judgment to the records office and have a lien placed against any property your ex-spouse owes. Alternatively you can hire a third party to handle the collection efforts on your behalf once you obtain the judgment.
Tips & Warnings
- North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas only allow wage garnishment to collect tax debt, court-ordered child support, delinquent student loans and court-ordered fines or restitution.
- States that allow garnishment set maximum thresholds, meaning they limit what total percent of a debtors wages can be garnished for any and all debts. If your ex-spouse has significant debts and his wages are already garnished, you may not be able to garnish any more wages.
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