How long after a judgment from a creditor before they start to garnish your wages?

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

In reality, a garnishment can begin as soon as the garnishment order is given to an employer, or bank, or other asset holder, and the required documentation by the employer or bank or asset-holder is ready for execution. Texas prohibits garnishment of pay. It is currently the only state that does so. However, once the pay hits the bank, as in a direct-deposit, the bank-directed garnishment will occur. No notification of garnishment occurs until the freeze occurs so that the debtor might not withdraw money in an account before the account is frozen. The notification must arrive at the debtor within 15 days (typically) after the garnishment begins. On assets, only those that the debtor holds title, fully or partially, can be frozen.

While Federal law impacts garnishing, each state has its own touch on how the garnishing can occur, as we see in Texas, for example. OSHA, as a part of the federal consumer protection laws, has issued a document entitled, “Federal Garnishment Law – Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act”. One can obtain a copy at [http://www.osha.gov/pls/epub/wageindex.download?p_file=F21659/wh1280.pdf].
Essentially, this law limits the percentage of wages that can be garnished, 25%. It does not otherwise set or restrict any timeline on garnishing once a dutiful decision is made.

While investigating this question, another site came up that was a corporate accounting / payroll site, [http://www.accountingnet.com/x48342.xml]. What this url points to is the considerations in the garnishing process a payroll office must deal with. It provides some sense of time that a debtor’s employer has to spend to set up and execute the garnishment order. Garnishment orders put accountability on the employer and payroll office to do the execution correct and with notifications, when necessary. The payroll office itself is subject to audit if irregularities occur.

For bank accounts involved in a garnishment judgment, this is called a “nonwage” garnishment. Federal law exempts Social Security, disability or veteran's payments from bank account garnishment. This means that a bank has to sort through and separate what can be garnished and what cannot be garnished in said bank account. While this goes on, the account is likely frozen, meaning the debtor has no access to any bank funds. The debtor is forced to go back to the courts and attempt to get some access to some of the exempt money. Federal law enacted May, 2011, requires exempt monies going into a bank account to be tagged-as-exempt from garnishment. This facilitates separating monies in a bank account. Banks are also required to give debtors a notice with protected and unprotected fund amounts once the bank is served with a garnishment order. This happens only with direct-deposit as manually deposited monies are not tagged.

One last resource, [http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/wage-garnishment-for-credit-card-debt-1282.php], was a good source of garnishment information. It gives some examples of state-mandated restrictions on account amounts and timelines involved. Again, each state seems to have slightly different rules around bank account garnishments. It is very likely that one can find the garnishment laws for each state online. For example, google “ Texas garnishment laws”. Many hits came up.

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