How to Find Out If Someone Has a Garnishment Against Them

By Samantha Kemp ; Updated June 19, 2017
An employer checks a potential employee's background

When someone has a judgment placed against him because he owes a debt, the creditor might elect to garnish his wages or bank account. Depending on why you want to know if this is the case, it can be relatively simple to find out.

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 before they proceed. 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 other than child support, defaulted student loans or taxes, a creditor must get a court judgment before it can begin to garnish the debtor's wages or accounts. This means suing the debtor for the debt first. Any resulting court judgments are public records and anyone can request this information.

Check with the circuit clerk's office where the debtor resides to find out if there are any existing judgments or garnishment orders on file. Even if the creditor received the judgment out of state, it must register this "foreign" judgment in the jurisdiction where the employer lives and/or works, so there should still be a local court record.

Run a Credit Report

An individual's credit report lists current judgments and garnishments against him, but the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that you have the debtor's permission and a permissible purpose before you can access his credit report. If you are checking for garnishments because you're considering renting property to the individual, lending him money or employing him, these are common permissible purposes, but you would still need his consent to get the report. 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 that formal paperwork be on record with the county, state or municipality. Vehicles must be registered, and deeds must be recorded. Discover what types of property the individual might own, then check for any liens or garnishments against these assets. 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 can 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.

About the Author

Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.