What is garnishment?
A garnishment is a court order that allows a judgment creditor to take property that belongs to you that is in the hands of a third party. Usually this is in the form of taking your wages from your employer before the employer pays them to you. How this happens is that the creditor gets a writ of garnishment from the court and has it served on your employer, along with garnishee interrogatories, which are written questions directed to the employer. The employer has a certain number of days to answer the interrogatories to the creditor. The employer is also required to mail a copy of the writ to you together with forms that you can fill out and file with the court to contest the garnishment. You then have a certain number of days to complete the forms, file them with the court and mail a copy back to the employer. During this time the employer holds any money owed to you that is subject to garnishment. If you don’t file the objection the employer turns the money over to the creditor. If you do object the objection is heard by the judge in the case.
What objections can I make?
There are very few objections you can make to a writ of garnishment. The fact that a writ has been issued means the creditor already has a judgment against you so it’s too late to contest whether you owe the money or the amount you owe. The only real objections you can raise are that the money being garnished isn’t yours (unlikely if it’s a wage garnishment) or the money is exempt from garnishment. Money from social security, pensions, retirement accounts, unemployment compensation and other sources is exempt from garnishment. But if it’s your employer who is being garnished (the garnishee), your wages are not exempt. It isn’t a defense that this doesn’t leave you with enough money to pay your bills.
Will bankruptcy stop garnishment?
Yes! The automatic stay of the bankruptcy code stops all garnishments and other attempts to collect debts. Before you decide to file bankruptcy, however, talk to a qualified bankruptcy attorney about the consequences of filing and which chapter is best for you.