If you get a court judgment stating someone owes you money, you are a judgment creditor. The person who owes you the money is a judgment debtor. Garnishment is one tool you can use to help collect your judgment.
Garnishment is a court process that allows a creditor to collect money from a garnishee. A garnishee is someone who has control of the debtor’s money or assets, or who pays the debtor. For example, a garnishee could be a bank, employer, a tenant, or the State of Michigan. In garnishment proceedings, the creditor is the Plaintiff and the debtor is the Defendant.
You must wait 21 days after the judgment is signed to request a writ of garnishment. You can request another writ after the first one expires if the debtor still owes you money. You can have more than one type of garnishment at the same time as long as they’re not from the same garnishee.
You must file a garnishment before your judgment expires. This is called the statute of limitations.
Requesting a Garnishment
Start a garnishment by filing a Request and Writ for Garnishment with the court that entered the judgment. The writ is a court order. It tells the garnishee to give you the money it holds for the debtor (like money in a bank account) or would have paid to the debtor (like a paycheck).
There are three forms for requesting a writ:
To complete each form you need:
The garnishee’s name and address
The total amount of the judgment, including any costs that have been added to it and interest that has accrued and
Information about the debtor so the garnishee can identify the debtor
If the garnishee is the debtor’s employer, you might need the debtor’s social security number or employee identification number. If the garnishee is a bank or credit union, you also need the debtor’s account number(s). If the garnishee is the State of Michigan, you need the debtor’s social security number. If you don’t include all the required information, the garnishee does not have to process the writ.
File the Request and Writ for Garnishment with the court that entered the judgment. There is a $15 filing fee. The court issues the writ by signing it.
A periodic garnishment garnishes money the debtor is paid on a regular basis. Examples include paychecks or rent payments. Money is taken from each payment until the garnishment expires or the debt is paid.
A writ of periodic garnishment is in effect until the balance of the judgment is paid off.
When a debtor’s wages are garnished, only a certain amount can be taken. It is never more than 25% of the debtor’s earnings after taxes.
A non-periodic garnishment is a one-time garnishment. It’s usually applied to a bank account or state tax refund. It’s only good for the moment it’s served on the garnishee. So if the debtor’s checking account has $100 in it when the writ is served you will get $100 toward the judgment. If the debtor deposits $1,000 the day after the writ is served, you will still get $100.
A writ of non-periodic garnishment is in effect for 182 days. This means the non-periodic garnishment expires on the 183rd day after the court issued it. After that you must request another writ of garnishment to keep collecting this way. It can only be used once; it expires when it is used.
Serving the Writ
Have the garnishee served with two copies of the Request and Writ of Garnishment, a disclosure form, and the disclosure fee. The disclosure fee is $35 for periodic garnishments, and $1 for non-periodic garnishments. The garnishee must be served within 182 days from the date the writ is issued.
Who can serve it
You cannot serve the writ. You can ask someone else to do it or you can pay your local sheriff’s department, police department, or a process server to do it. If you ask someone else, that person must be at least 18 years old and not involved in the case.
How to serve it
The server may serve the garnishee in person. If the garnishee is a business, the server must serve the writ on the resident agent or the person in charge of an office or business.
The server may also serve the garnishee by mailing the documents and fee by registered mail, return receipt requested. Once the papers have been delivered, the server will get the return receipt (a green card) in the mail.
The server can also have the garnishee sign the acknowledgement of service on the Proof of Service form.
Then the server must fill out the Proof of Service form. The server can file it with the court or give it to you. The Proof of Service must be filed with the court to show the writ was served
When the Garnishee gets the Writ
The garnishee must deliver or mail a copy of the writ to the debtor within seven days after being served the writ. After the garnishee sends the writ, the debtor has 14 days to file an objection to the garnishment.
Within seven days of being served with the writ, the garnishee must disclose to you, the court, and the debtor if it owes the debtor money or holds the debtor’s money. If so, the garnishee must hold the money for 28 days from the date the writ was served on the garnishee. If the debtor has not filed an objection after 28 days, the garnishee must pay you the money.