This is the latest entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
When someone owes an unpaid debt and does not meet the requirements of bankruptcy, a garnishment may be placed on their income or property until the creditor can collect fully on the debt in question. A garnishment is a fairly extreme means of collecting on an unpaid debt and a situation usually reached after other attempts at an agreement or settlement have been exhausted.
While a garnishment can be thought of a specific end result involving the transfer of property from a debtor to the creditor, the term actually refers to the entire legal process from the start of a petition in court to the securing of a court order to redirect incoming funds from the debtor to the creditor, usually via a third party. According to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, garnishments are typically paid in installments either directly or administered through a legal third party, such as the local Sheriff.
In the case of a garnishment, creditors can take the form or credit card companies, the IRS or any type of lender. The third party or “garnishee” that the funds are redirected from is usually the debtor’s employer, according to Investopedia. This often is referred to as “wage garnishment.” If you find yourself in a situation where your wages are garnished, you should consult with a legal professional.
So, in addition to a court order going against the debtor, a garnishment can also potentially negatively impact his or her work environment. In some states, employers even have the right to terminate employment in the case of multiple garnishments, due to the liability they can incur, according to The Nest.
Like most court judgments, garnishments are public record and can be accessed by anyone with knowledge of the case number or personal details of the debtor. It will also affect your credit score in most cases.
Wage garnishments are often the result of unpaid child support or alimony claims, unpaid bills or owed taxes. Celebrities who have had their wages or property garnished include the rapper DMX, Will Smith and Charlie Sheen, according to Madame Noir.