How to Find Out If Someone Has a Garnishment Against Them

By Samantha Kemp
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When someone has a judgment placed against them for owing a debt, the creditor might elect to garnish his wages or bank account. However, only one garnishment can be issued at a time in some cases. To avoid going through the legal hassle of attempting to issue a garnishment that will ultimately be ineffective, creditors may attempt to determine if there is an existing garnishment in place beforehand. Additionally, individuals might want to know about existing garnishments when considering someone's financial stability prior to making an offer of employment or deciding whether to rent him an apartment.

Check Court Records

For most debts besides child support, defaulted student loans or taxes, a creditor must get a court judgment before it can begin to garnish the debtor's wages. Court judgments are a public record, and anyone can request this information. Check with the circuit clerk's office where the debtor resides and works to see if there are any existing judgments or garnishment orders. Even if the creditor received the judgment out of state, it must register the foreign judgment in the jurisdiction where the employer operates, so there would still be a local court record.

Run a Credit Report

A credit report lists current judgments and garnishments against individuals. By running a credit report, a typically inexpensive endeavor, you can check for garnishments. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act typically requires that you have permission and a permissible purpose to run the report. If you are checking for garnishments because you are considering renting a room to the individual, lending him money or employing him, these are common permissible purposes. Alternatively, you can ask the individual to provide you with a recent copy of his own credit report without having to comply with the stringent guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Run a Property Records Search

Many types of property require formal paperwork to be on record. Vehicles must be registered, and deeds recorded. Discover what types of property the individual has and then check for any associated liens or garnishments. Other types of property besides wages can be garnished or can have a lien placed on them, including real property, vehicles, bank accounts and other financial interests. Many jurisdictions provide for property record searches online or at the county clerk's office. Additionally, individuals can check for UCC or Secretary of State filings for business assets.

File a Lawsuit

If you have a legitimate purpose to pursue your own garnishment against the individual, you might file a lawsuit. After filing your complaint, you can use the formal discovery process to conduct a deposition, submit interrogatories or ask for a production of evidence regarding any existing garnishments against the other individual. If there is no existing garnishment, you may wish to pursue the case against the individual so that you can ultimately submit your own application for a writ of garnishment.