After a creditor receives a judgment against a debtor, it may send the debtor's employer a writ of garnishment. This writ is a court order that instructs the employer to begin withholding the non-exempt portion of the employee's wages to pay off the debt he owes. The employer is responsible for providing information about the debtor's wages by answering the writ. Failing to do so can result in a contempt of court action against the employer.
Read the Instructions
The writ of garnishment includes information about the judgment and instructions for the employer. Some jurisdictions require a separate set of instructions to be included with the writ. Read these carefully. Answer all questions fully. Some writs may include a form that the employer completes by filling in the blanks, while others may require the employer to submit a separate written document. The employer confirms that the subject of the writ is still employed and documents the amount of wages that he receives during a typical workweek.
Answer the Interrogatories
Many writs of garnishment are accompanied by a set of interrogatories to the employer. These may be specific interrogatories developed by the creditor's attorney, or they may be standard interrogatories provided by the court. The employer must respond to any interrogatories that accompany the writ of garnishment. The employer must submit the interrogatories within the time frame provided in the writ and provide a copy of its answers to the interrogatories to the debtor. The answers must be sworn under oath.
Calculate the Garnishment Amount
The instructions likely indicate the percentage of earnings that can be garnished. Follow these instructions to determine the amount of wages to be withheld. Federal law permits garnishment of the lesser of 25 percent of the employee's disposable wages or the amount by which his wages exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage. However, some states have more restrictive guidelines and may not permit garnishment if the employee's wages are not above a certain threshold.
Some states require the creditor to provide notice that a writ of garnishment has been delivered to the employer. Upon receiving notice of a garnishment, the debtor can object to the garnishment by filing a written motion to the court and requesting a hearing. Some jurisdictions permit the debtor to file a response to the writ of garnishment at any time to assert a defense or to object to the garnishment, while others require the objection to be filed within a certain period of time. The debtor may object if the garnishment would cause extreme financial hardship or if he is the head of household, if this objection is available under state law. He also may object if a portion of the income is exempt based on state or federal law, such as income from pensions, IRAs, Social Security, workers' compensation or a work incentive program.