Bluntly put, garnishment is a scary process for debtors. The process entails frozen assets, court visits and countless hours of headaches. Even worse, many debtors may have no idea that a garnishment action has been taken against them until it is too late. Over the years, we have fielded many frantic calls from consumers whose bank accounts were suddenly frozen through garnishment proceedings. So what can be done to avoid garnishment? First, it is important to understand the garnishment process.
Can I be garnished because I have not paid my bills?
You are only subject to garnishment proceedings from a judgment creditor. In other words, a final judgment, validating the debt, must be obtained against you prior to garnishment proceedings. Accordingly, if a debt collector has not filed a claim against you in a court of law and obtained a final judgment, then you cannot be subject to a garnishment proceeding for lack of payment. However, once a final judgment is obtained, then a creditor can garnish you if the judgment remains unpaid.
Can my bank account be frozen?
Yes, once a judgment creditor files for a writ of garnishment the writ is served upon the garnishee. The garnishee generally takes the form of your employer, bank, etc. and is the source where funds are originated. Once served upon the garnishee, the writ requires the garnishee to freeze assets until the garnishment proceeding is resolved, or the writ is dissolved.
Do I have defenses to garnishment?
Yes, there are defenses to garnishment proceedings, and some defenses are absolute. The most common defenses to garnishment are head of household, public assistance and social security. There are other defenses that can apply and you should speak to an attorney about your specific set of circumstances to determine if you are exempt from garnishment.
Can my wages be garnished?
Yes, the court may order a continuing writ against your salary or wages. The writ is issued to the debtor’s employer and by court order the employer must contribute a portion of the salary or wages to satisfy the debt.
What can I do to avoid garnishment?
The best thing to do to avoid garnishment is to work a resolution with the judgment creditor prior to the institution of the garnishment proceeding. If you know that a final judgment has been entered against you, be proactive and seek to settle the debt. If you cannot come to a resolution with the creditor and a garnishment proceeding is brought against you, seek counsel to determine if you are exempt from garnishment.