How Are Garnishments Served?


Owing money to a creditor and failing to pay a balance can trigger a domino effect. Creditors and lenders are relentless in their debt collection techniques, and they employ various methods to collect on an unpaid debt, such as asking the court for a wage garnishment.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Understandably, debtors want to keep their debts and financial life private. But if a creditor obtains permission to garnish your wages, they involve your employer in the matter. Wage garnishments refer to an employer withholding a percentage of your paycheck in order to satisfy a debt. Creditors can garnish up to 25 percent of your earnings (50 percent if you owe back child support). Garnishments remain in effect until a debt is paid in full.

Obtaining Garnishment

Getting a wage garnishment involves a specific process. Creditors cannot garnish wages without permission from a court; and courts grant permission only after a creditor receives a judgment against the debtor. Judgments are an order to pay a debt issued by a court. After hearing a lawsuit for a delinquent account, a judge may order a debtor to pay his creditor. If the debtor ignores the judgment order, creditors may then enforce a judgment and obtain an order to garnish a debtor's wages.

Serving a Garnishment

Garnishment orders are delivered directly to employers and served by a sheriff. Upon receipt of a garnishment orders, employers are obligated by law to comply with the garnishment. They must withhold the appropriate funds and deliver these funds to the creditor. Failure to comply with the garnishment order transfers liability to the employer.

Stopping a Garnishment

Garnishments can continue until satisfaction of a debt. However, debtors can contact the creditor on their own to pay off the debt in full or establish a different payment plan. Garnishments stop after paying the full balance, and a creditor may accept an installment payment plan and stop the garnishment. Debtors can also petition the court to stop a wage garnishment if unable to afford basic living expenses due to the loss income. This involves filing a claim of exemption with the court and providing copies of bills and a list of expenses.

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