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Common Questions about Garnishment

Contents

    These are common questions about garnishments.

    Questions about Garnishment

    What is garnishment?

    Garnishment is a court process that lets a creditor collect money from a garnishee. In Michigan, money can be garnished from:

    • Paychecks and other earnings
    • Credit union and bank accounts
    • State tax refunds

    Read the article An Overview of Garnishment to learn more about garnishment.

    What can I do if a creditor garnishes me?

    You can stop or prevent garnishment by paying the entire debt.

    If there’s something wrong with the garnishment, you can object to it. Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn when and how to object to a garnishment.

    If it’s a periodic garnishment of your paycheck, you can file a motion for installment payments. That will stop and prevent paycheck garnishments. Read the article Getting an Installment Payment Plan for more information about this.

    What’s a writ of garnishment?

    A writ of garnishment is a court order telling a garnishee to give a debtor’s money to a creditor. A garnishee is a third party that has control of the debtor’s money or pays the debtor. For example, a garnishee could be:

    • A bank
    • Employer
    • A tenant or
    • The State of Michigan.

    Read the article An Overview of Garnishment to learn more.

    How does garnishment happen?

    Garnishment is a court process that lets a creditor collect money from a garnishee. A garnishee is a third party that has control of the debtor’s money or pays the debtor. For example, a garnishee could be a bank, employer, a tenant or the State of Michigan.

    After a court decides someone owes money and issues a judgment, the creditor must wait 21 days. If the judgment is not paid after 21 days, the creditor can ask the court for a writ of garnishment. The writ is a court order. It tells the garnishee to give the creditor the money it holds for the debtor (like money in a bank account) or would have paid the debtor (like a paycheck).

    To learn more about garnishment, read the article An Overview of Garnishment.

    How much of my paycheck can be garnished?

    A creditor can garnish whichever is less:

    • Up to 25% of your disposable earnings OR
    • The amount of your disposable earnings that's more than 30 times the federal minimum wage (currently $277.50 a week)

    Read the article An Overview of Garnishments to learn about garnishments.

    If you think more than the maximum is being garnished from your paycheck, you can object to the garnishment. To learn more, read the article Objecting to Garnishments.

    How does garnishment of my bank account happen?

    Garnishment of your bank account is a nonperiodic garnishment. If a creditor has a judgment against you, it can file a request and writ of garnishment for a nonperiodic garnishment. If you haven’t paid the judgment, the court will grant and issue it. The creditor has 90 days to serve the writ on your bank. This is usually done by mail.

    When your bank or credit union gets a writ of garnishment against you, your account may be frozen. You will not be able to withdraw or deposit money into it. Any checks you have written may bounce and the bank may charge you fees.

    Within 14 days of getting the writ, your bank must complete a Garnishee Disclosure and mail it to the court and the parties. If the bank doesn’t disclose within the time limit, the court can order it to pay the full amount owed on the judgment.

    You have 14 days after getting notice of a garnishment to file an objection with the court. If you object, the garnishment will be put on hold until the court decides to whether to uphold your objection. If you do not object, your bank will send the money to your creditor.

    The bank must send the funds to the court or the creditor 28 days after being served a copy of the writ, unless it gets a court order telling it not to. The bank must wait 28 days to transfer the money so you have time to object to the garnishment.

    Your bank can only take money out of your bank account once for each writ of nonperiodic garnishment. Your creditor will have to file another request to get more money from your account.

    How does garnishment of my state tax refund happen?

    A state tax refund can only be garnished through the Michigan Department of Treasury. Both private creditors and public state agencies may garnish a state tax refund. Garnishment of a state tax refund is also known as tax interception or a tax offset.

    A court must issue a judgment against a debtor before a creditor can get a writ of garnishment. If the debt is not paid within 21 days, the creditor must ask the court to issue a writ of garnishment.

    After the writ of garnishment is issued, the creditor has 90 days to serve the Department of Treasury with a copy. The creditor must serve a copy on the debtor within seven days of serving the Department of Treasury. Within 90 days of when the writ is received, the Department of Treasury sends a reciept for the intercepted amount to the debtor.

    After getting a copy of the writ from the creditor, a debtor has 14 days to file an objection with the court. If no objection is filed within 14 days, the money will be taken out of the debtor's state tax refund if there is one.

    Where does money go when it’s garnished?

    The garnishee should send garnished money to the creditor.

    Can I hide my assets to avoid garnishment?

    After the court issues a writ of garnishment and you’ve been notified of it, you cannot legally hide or transfer your assets (for example emptying your bank account) to avoid garnishment.

    As soon as the bank receives a writ of garnishment against you, your account may be frozen – you will not be able to withdraw or deposit money into it. It also means that any checks you just sent out may bounce and the bank may charge you additional fees.

    Is there money that can't be garnished from my bank account?

    Yes. Money from some sources is exempt from garnishment. Read the article Garnishment Exemptions to learn more.

    If exempt money is being garnished, you have a reason to object to the garnishment. Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn more.

    Read the article An Overview of Garnishments to learn about garnishments generally.

    What does it mean to “commingle” funds?

    Commingling funds is combining exempt funds and non-exempt funds. You combine funds if you put both types in the same account. This can make it harder to prove some of the money was exempt.

    It’s also commingling to combine your exempt funds with someone else’s non-exempt funds. Read the article Garnishment Exemptions to learn what funds are exempt.

    Exempt funds should not be garnished. If they are, you may have a reason to object to the garnishment. Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn when and how to object to a garnishment.

    Some electronically deposited federal benefits should not be frozen by garnishment if you got them in the past two months. This is true even if you have commingled these funds with non-exempt funds. Read the article Electronically Deposited Exempt Federal Benefits to learn more.

    Does exempt money I’ve commingled stay exempt?

    Your exempt money usually stays exempt. But it can be hard to prove money was exempt if you’ve commingled it with nonexempt money.

    If your exempt money is garnished, you can object to the garnishment. You will have to prove the money was exempt. To learn when and how to object to a garnishment read our article Objecting to Garnishments.

    Is it bad to commingle funds?

    If you could be garnished, you may want to avoid commingling your exempt funds with non-exempt funds.

    You could be garnished if there’s an unpaid judgment against you that was issued more than 21 days ago. If you have “commingled” funds, it can be hard to prove some of the money was exempt. And some of your exempt funds will be garnished. You will have to take extra steps to try to get those funds back.

    Certain federal benefits that are electronically deposited into your bank account are not frozen by garnishment. Read the article Electronically Deposited Exempt Federal Benefits to learn more.

    What can I do if I’ve been commingling my exempt and nonexempt funds?

    If you have been commingling exempt and nonexempt funds, you can stop commingling. To stop commingling, open a separate bank account and deposit your exempt funds in it. Do not put any nonexempt funds in that account; keep them separate.

    If your exempt funds are garnished, you can object to the garnishment. Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn more.

    What can I do if exempt funds have been garnished from my account?

    If your exempt funds have been garnished, you can object to the garnishment. You will then need to prove to the court that the funds were exempt and should not have been garnished.

    Read the article An Overview of Garnishment to learn more about garnishments. Read the article Garnishment Exemptions to learn if you might have exempt income. Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn when and how to object to a garnishment.

    What can I do if my public benefit payments were garnished from my bank account?

    Most public benefits payments are exempt funds. Read the article Garnishment Exemptions to learn what money is exempt from garnishment.

    You may want to object to garnishment if exempt funds are garnished from your bank account. Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn how.

    Some federal benefits are electronically deposited into your bank account. They should not be frozen if they were deposited in the past two months. Read the article Electronically Deposited Exempt Federal Benefits to learn more.

    How do I object to a garnishment?

    Read the article Objecting to Garnishments. It tells you when and how to object to a garnishment.

    Can I object to a garnishment more than 14 days after I was served with the writ of garnishment?

    You can object to a garnishment more than 14 days after you were served with it. But the garnishee will continue to withhold your money from you while the objection’s pending. The garnishee has to give it to the creditor. A garnishee can’t stop paying a writ until it expires or it gets a court order to stop paying it.

    If you file an objection more than 14 days after getting the writ and the judge rules in your favor, it may take some time for the garnishee to return your money.

    Read the article Objecting to Garnishments to learn when and how to object to a garnishment.

    When will the court schedule a hearing on my garnishment objection?

    The court must schedule a hearing within 21 days of when you file your objection. Ask the court clerk if you can set a hearing date when you file your objection.

    How much does it cost to object to a garnishment?

    There is no cost to file an objection to garnishment.

    What can I do to avoid garnishment?

    The best way to avoid garnishment is pay your debts. If you’re behind on your bills, contact your creditor and ask to set up a payment plan. Before a creditor can garnish you, your creditor must get a judgment against you: A judge must decide you owe the debt. Read the article Dealing With Debt Before Court to learn more.

    If there’s a judgment, you can ask the court to order an installment payment plan. This protects your paycheck from being garnished. To learn about installment payments, read the article Getting an Installment Payment Plan.

    It’s illegal to move or hide your assets to avoid garnishment after the court issues a writ of garnishment.