What to Know: Using Garnishment to Collect Your Money from a Debtor

Garnishment is a legal tool to get your money back from a debtor.

Does someone owe you money, but is not paying it back? Or maybe you won a judgment in court, but the debtor has yet to pay the money? It might be time to consider using garnishment to get your money back. Read on to learn all about garnishment so you can make an informed decision whether or not to use this legal tool.

What is a Garnishment?

A garnishment can be used to divert a portion of a debtor’s paycheck or money from their bank to start paying your back, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You won’t be able to take your debtor’s entire paycheck or empty their bank account to get your money back, but you can start getting paid in installments until the debt is paid off or resolved in another way.

What’s Required to Garnish

According to NerdWallet.com, most garnishments require a court order, usually obtained after a judgment against the debtor. In some cases, such as paying overdue child support, a court order is not required. If you win a judgment against the debtor, once you file the proper paperwork to place a garnishment, you’ll start getting paid within five to 30 business days.

Types of Debt

Garnishments can be used to pay back personal loans. You can also use a garnishment to get child support and alimony. If you own a particular type of business, such as a medical service, you can also use garnishment to get outstanding invoices paid. Finally, consumer debts also qualify for garnishments.

Income Exempt from Garnishment

Certain types of income are exempt from garnishment in Washington state, according to Washington Law Help. For example, social security disability, retirement and unemployment compensation benefits are exempt unless you owe child support. State welfare and state disability payments are also exempt in Washington.

In addition, in Washington, no wages can be garnished if the debtor makes less than $253.75 per week or $1,099.33 per month. If the debtor makes more than these amounts, he can still keep 75% of his take home pay, says Washington Law Help. That means you may be able to garnish the rest.

Filling in the Paperwork

You must fill out the proper legal forms to provide the required notices and get the list of rights for exemptions. We offer a do-it-yourself Garnishment Kit you can instantly download and start filling in. Or you can order a print version we’ll mail to you. Click here to order the Garnishment Kit.


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