Garnishment Laws

Garnishment laws vary by state. What is common among all states, however, is that before garnishment can proceed, it must be approved by the courts.

Garnishment laws are used in societies as a way for a creditor to recover unsecured debt from a debtor who for, whatever reason, has neglected to pay what is owed. Garnishment is also used by governments to collect unpaid taxes and by states to collect child or spousal support that is in arrears.

A garnishee action can be directed against the wages of a debtor or against a financial instrument that a debtor may control such as a bank account or checking account.

Whenever a creditor is looking to garnish the wages or a financial instrument of a debtor he files a suit in the county that the debtor lives in. The debtor is then issued a summons to appear in court as a specified date and time. If the debtor does not show, the judge allows the creditor to present his case. Typically, because the debtor is not there to offer alternative testimony, the judge will rule against him, thus allowing the garnishment to take place.

Federal laws prevent all the monies of the debtor from being garnisheed. The laws require that a minimum amount of money be left for the debtor for basic shelter and sustenance needs. In addition, by federal law, money from certain sources are exempt from garnishment. In other words, each of the 50 states is allowed the freedom to set its own garnishment laws as long as they don't violate any federal garnishment laws that exist.

For example, after a ruling, some states will allow for the debtor to have a 30 day grace period before garnishment commences. In other states, garnishment may begin as soon as the court has ruled with no waiting period. In most states, there will be procedures to stop garnishment if certain conditions are met.

Again, the exact exemptions vary according to regions of the country, but they generally include things such as child and spouse support, social security, disability payments, and so on. At any rate, every state has its exemptions list. Anything not on that exemption list can be garnished.

There are various entities that can be garnished. A person's salary can be garnished. A persons account (e.g. bank account or checking account) from a financial institution can be garnished as well. Different garnishment rules apply to each one.

In addition a garnishment order can be in effect until the total debt is paid. Or the order may only be for a certain number of payments.

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