Garnishment Remedies CdWritOfGarnishment
Most states use the garnishment remedy as something aimed at a debtor's revenue stream, most commonly wages, and the levy remedy is employed for most other assets. Thus, in California, a creditor would garnish a debtor's wages, but would levy on the debtor's bank account. However, in some states such as Arizona, the garnishment remedy is used in lieu of the levy remedy; it is really just a levy, but those states call it a garnishment.
Subject to the above warning, the remedy of garnishment is typically directed towards some revenue stream of the debtor, most commonly wages, but also royalty streams and the like.
Upon the request of the creditor seeking the garnishment (the garnishor), the court (read: court clerk) will issue a Writ of Garnishment to the levying officer (read: sheriff's office), who will deliver to the party paying the revenue stream (the garnishee) the Writ of Garnishment. After a certain number of days, as determined by local statutes, the garnishee must reply to the Writ of Garnishment as to whether such payments are being made to the debtor. If the garnishee is paying such moneys to the debtor, then the garnishee must instead pay those moneys over to the levying officer (although the garnishee may deduct certain amounts as described at Restrictions on Garnishment.
If the garnishee is not making any payments to the debtor, then the garnishee reports that to the levying officer and that is the end of the matter.
If the garnishee is making payments to the debtor but fails to remit the necessary portion to the levying officer, then the garnishee can become subject to a creditor suit that will make the garnishee directly liable to the creditor (which can be unpleasant) and/or to a contempt charge (which can be really unpleasant).
Notably, garnishments can be one-off affairs which hit a single payment, or they can be a continuing garnishment which keeps taking all or a portion of the payments until either some period of time elapses or the judgment is satisfied. Wage garnishments are almost always continuing by statute, but in some locations for a creditor to obtain a continuing garnishment they must first make a motion to the court.
- Restrictions on Garnishment
- Federal Wage Garnishment Law, 15 U.S. Code § 1671 (a/k/a "FWGL")