If you are a creditor and an individual has not repaid their debt to you in full after an extended period of time, you may have the right to collect money from that debtor’s wages, bank account, or other assets. This is a legal process called garnishment. In order to do this, however, there are a number of requirements that must be met.
Requirements for a Garnishment
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the requirements for garnishment are:
- The creditor needs to have a judgment against the debtor.
- The creditor needs to have an order of garnishment from the court.
- The debtor must have regular income from employment or another source or must have savings.
- The creditor must serve the employer or another source of income or savings with legal notice as well as give them copies of the order of judgment.
Note that judgment debtors themselves do not need to be served with notice of the garnishment before it is implemented.
The amount you are allowed to garnish depends on whether the source of the garnished funds is the debtor’s wages or their bank account.
If you are garnishing an individual’s wages, Virginia law limits the amount you may garnish to 25 percent of their disposable income. Disposable income refers to the debtor’s gross income, minus:
- Federal, state, and local taxes
- Social Security contributions
- Medicare contributions
- Union dues
- Health insurance premiums
If you are garnishing a debtor’s bank account, Virginia law permits you to garnish 100 percent of unprotected funds. This means that the money may be taken from their account, and the account can be frozen so that future funds may not be withdrawn from the account during the period of garnishment. There are, however, certain funds that are protected. These include:
- Social Security benefits
- Veterans’ benefits
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Unemployment compensation
- Workers’ compensation benefits
When Can a Garnishment Begin?
A garnishment can begin after you have submitted a garnishment summons to the court and the debtor’s employer or bank has received notice of the garnishment.
If you are garnishing a bank account, the account will generally be frozen immediately after the bank has received the garnishment order. All accounts in the debtor’s name will be subject to the freeze, regardless of the state in which the debtor opened the account. This applies to joint accounts as well as individual accounts.
On the other hand, the garnishment may take several weeks to be implemented if the summons has been sent to the debtor’s employer. This is especially the case if the employer is a corporation that uses a large external payroll company. However, if the summons is sent directly to the employer’s payroll department, the employer will be instructed to withhold 25 percent of eligible wages and forward them to the court.
In order to garnish a debtor’s wages, the debtor must generally be making more than $300 a week. If they make less than that, their wages cannot be garnished.
If your debtor files for bankruptcy, they will no longer be subject to garnishment. Furthermore, they may also file for an exemption that will protect them from garnishment.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Civil Litigation Attorney
If you are having trouble collecting from one or more of your debtors, the Virginia civil litigation attorneys at Taylor, Taylor & Taylor, Inc. are here to help. We have the experience, skill, and knowledge to help you determine whether garnishment is an option for you. If so, we can do all the necessary work to execute the garnishment for you so that you can get back what you are owed. Contact us online today or call us at 804-266-9619 for a thorough and confidential consultation.