What Is Garnishing the Check?

There are few situations where an employer can withhold pay from an employee legally. One is when the employee’s check is being garnished by a creditor. The employer then has an obligation to send the court-ordered garnishment amount to the appropriate party each pay period. Check garnishing is a common debt-collection tactic that is often more effective than other types of payment arrangements.

Definition

Check garnishment is a common term for a situation where one party forcibly removes money from another person’s pay. The employer receives a court order to garnish the wages for a predetermined dollar amount or percentage. Then the employer removes that amount from the employee’s pay and sends it to the creditor. Often who can be garnished and how much can be garnished are limited by state’s laws, which can vary.

Purpose

Garnishment initiatives are used when someone owes a debt but hasn’t made good on it. It’s a tool creditors use to collect on long past-due debts. It’s usually a last resort measure so if the debtor is making payments or has some sort of arrangement in place, the garnishment doesn’t take place. Still, it’s an effective tool because the money is automatically taken, requiring no actions on the debtor’s part.

Starting It

If you are a creditor having trouble collecting a debt, the first step to garnishing that debt from a paycheck is getting a judgment from the courts in your favor. Then you present the court order to the sheriff’s department so it can have it applied. If you have a large debt portfolio, you may hire a debt management company that will manage this process for you.

Stopping It

If you are a debtor who has received noticed that your pay will be garnished or has already started being garnished, there are a couple of steps you can take to stop it. The first is to contact the creditor and try to work out a payment plan. You have an uphill battle convincing him, though, because the creditor is already receiving guaranteed payments. If that doesn’t work, consider filing bankruptcy because it may stop the garnishment of wages depending on the debt, the type of bankruptcy you file and the state you live in. It’s a good idea to consult a lawyer during this process and if you can’t afford one, contact your state’s legal aid resources for pro bono advice.