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Garnishments

A garnishment is a proceeding against a third party ("the garnishee"). The garnishee has money or other property belonging to the judgment debtor-defendant. Garnishment is the term of the legal process by which the garnishee pays into court the money, or property, that the garnishee owes to the judgment debtor.

 

Glossary of important Garnishment terms

Collateral - Property that guarantees payment of a secured debt.

Default - A failure to perform a legal duty.

Garnishee - A person or business entity, such as a corporation or bank which holds or owe monies or property to the judgment debtor.

Garnishment - A court-ordered process that takes property from a person to satisfy a debt.

Judgment Debtor - A person or entity (such as a bank) that owes money.

Plaintiff - In a garnishment action, the plaintiff is the judgment creditor who is seeking to collect a judgment wherein the judgment debtor owes money to the judgment creditor.

 

Definition

A garnishment is a proceeding against a third party ("the garnishee"). The garnishee has money or other property belonging to the judgment debtor-defendant. Garnishment is the term of the legal process by which the garnishee pays into court the money, or property, that the garnishee owes to the judgment debtor. (NOTE: Garnishments may be filed only after a judgment has been obtained against the debtor.)

Jurisdiction

The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to handle garnishments where the value judgment is $15,000 or less.

Venue

Is appropriate in the county where the garnishee (employer or bank) is located.

Filing Fee

The filing fee is $60 for one defendant and $8.00 for each additional defendant per case. The Marshal charges $13.00 to serve one defendant and $6.00 for each additional service. Business checks should be made payable to Magistrate Court.

Procedures for Filing a Garnishment

The Clerk of Magistrate Court provides forms required for filing and serving of Continuing Garnishment or Regular Garnishment. An applicant may appear in person in the office of the office of Magistrate Court at the North Annex, Central or South Annex location. The clerk will process your paperwork and assist in its e-filing. All forms mailed must be completely filled out and properly signed and notarized.

In order to file a garnishment in the Magistrate Court of Fulton County, you must have a certified copy of the judgment upon which you are filing.

Answer

A business which has been served with a garnishment affidavit has thirty (30) days to file an answer. If an answer is not filed within thirty (30) days, the garnishee (employer or bank) will be in default. All answers must be received in our office by 5:00 p.m. on the 30th day after service. For instructions on how to answer a garnishment, please refer to the Instructions in the appropriate Garnishment Packet.

Default

If an answer is not filed within 30 days, the garnishee is in default and the plaintiff may file a default against the garnishee (employer or bank).

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • How do I file a garnishment?
    Garnishment proceedings may be filed immediately if the judgment issued is a default judgment. Otherwise, a period of ten (10) days must lapse before a garnishment can be filed. The correct forms for filing a garnishment can be obtained from this website or from the Magistrate Court Clerk's Office.
  • What forms do I need?
    A copy of the judgment must accompany the garnishment upon filing if the judgment was obtained from another court. You also need:

    • Continuing (Wage) Garnishment

    • Affidavit and Summons of Continuing Garnishment

    • Answer of Continuing Garnishment

    • Sheriff's Entry of Service form for the garnishee

    • Sheriff's Entry of Service form for the defendant

    • Regular (Bank) Garnishment:

    • Affidavit and Summons of Garnishment

    • Answer of Garnishment

    • Sheriff's Entry of Service form for the garnishee

    • Sheriff's Entry of Service form for the defendant

  • How long does a garnishment last?
    A continuing (wage) garnishment is good for 195 days from the date of service by the Sheriff's Department.

    A regular (bank) garnishment is good for 45 days from the date of service by the Sheriff's Department.
  • How long does the garnishee have to file an answer with the court?
    A garnishee must file an answer with the court no later than 45 days, but not sooner than 30 days from the date of service by the Sheriff's Department.
  • What happens if the garnishee fails to file an answer?
    If the garnishee fails to file an answer by the 45th day from the date of service, they still have an additional 15 days in which they can file an answer but they are required to pay court cost in order to open the default. If the garnishee fails to file an answer by the 60th day from the date of service, the plaintiff can request a judgment against the garnishee. The plaintiff can then take steps to collect the judgment from the garnishee.

    Note that the Court will not enter a default judgment against a garnishee unless the Plaintiff has filed proof of service on Defendant and a proposed judgment.

  • What amount can I file a garnishment for?
    The principal amount on the judgment may not exceed $15,000.00 when filing a garnishment with the Magistrate Court.
  • Are there different types of garnishment?
    Continuing Garnishments are filed against a person's place of employment and last for approximately seven months, or until the garnishment is satisfied, whichever comes first. 25% of the defendant's 'take -home' pay will be attached each month. If the debt is not paid within the seven months, a new garnishment will have to be filed to collect the remaining balance.
    Regular Garnishments are typically filed against a bank, credit union, brokerage firm, employer, business which owes judgment creditor money. This filing will capture the amount you file for or whatever might be in the account or owed at that time. In the case of commissions, it will capture 100% of commissions for one month, or whatever you file for. If the judgment creditor is a self-employed, a regular garnishment will seize all sums up the amount of the garnishment that the garnishee owes the self-employed judgment creditor at that time.
    Support Garnishments are used to capture the periodic support for a family member - Alimony in the case of the awarded spouse, and Child Support in the case of children. The defendant must be behind at least one month's court ordered support before a Garnishment can be filed. 50% of the defendant's 'take-home' pay will be attached. A Support Garnishment has no termination date; it lasts until a zero balance is reached, indicating that the defendant has become current on payments.
    Tax Revenue Garnishments are filed by the Georgia Department of Revenue for unpaid State Income Taxes and are not available to the public.
  • What properties are subject to a garnishment?
    See O.C.G.A 18-4-20. Property subject to garnishment generally; claim amount and defendant's social security number on summons; information to be contained on summons of garnishment upon financial institution. Statute text:

    (a) As used in this Code section, the term:

    "Disposable earnings" means that part of the earnings of an individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of the amounts required by law to be withheld.

    "Earnings" means compensation paid or payable for personal services, whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, bonus, or otherwise, and includes periodic payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program.

    (b) All debts owed by the garnishee to the defendant at the time of service of the summons of garnishment upon the garnishee and all debts accruing from the garnishee to the defendant from the date of service to the date of the garnishee's answer shall be subject to process of garnishment; and no payment made by the garnishee to the defendant or to his order, or by any arrangement between the defendant and the garnishee, after the date of the service of the summons of garnishment upon the garnishee, shall defeat the lien of such garnishment.

    (c) All property, money, or effects of the defendant in the possession or control of the garnishee at the time of service of the summons of garnishment upon the garnishee or coming into the possession or control of the garnishee at any time from the date of service of the summons of garnishment upon the garnishee to the date of the garnishee's answer shall be subject to process of garnishment except, in the case of collateral securities in the hands of a creditor, such securities shall not be subject to garnishment so long as there is an amount owed on the debt for which the securities were given as collateral.

    (d) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this Code section, the maximum part of the aggregate disposable earnings of an individual for any work week which is subject to garnishment may not exceed the lesser of:

    (A) Twenty-five percent of his disposable earnings for that week; or

    (B) The amount by which his disposable earnings for that week exceed 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage prescribed by Section 6(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, U.S.C. Title 29, Section 206(a)(1), in effect at the time the earnings are payable.

    In case of earnings for a period other than a week, a multiple of the federal minimum hourly wage equivalent in effect to that set forth in subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be used.

    (e) The limitation on garnishment set forth in subsection (d) of this Code section shall apply although the garnishee may receive a summons of garnishment in more than one garnishment case naming the same defendant unless the garnishee has received a summons of garnishment based on a judgment for alimony or the support of a dependent, in which case the limitation on garnishment set forth in subsection (f) of this Code section shall apply although the garnishee may receive a summons of garnishment in more than one garnishment case naming the same defendant. No garnishee shall withhold from the disposable earnings of the defendant any sum greater than the amount prescribed by subsection (d) or subsection (f) of this Code section, as applicable, regardless of the number of summonses served upon the garnishee.

    (f) The exemption provided by subsection (d) of this Code section shall not apply if the judgment upon which the garnishment is based is a judgment for alimony or for the support of any dependent of the defendant, provided the summons of garnishment shall contain a notice to the garnishee that the garnishment is based on the judgment for alimony or the support of a dependent. In any case in which the garnishment is based on the judgment, the maximum part of the aggregate disposable earnings of an individual for any workweek which is subject to garnishment shall be 50 percent of the individual's disposable earnings for that week.

  • What is a traverse?
    The plaintiff's traverse states that the garnishee's answer is untrue or legally insufficient. The plaintiff may file a traverse no later than 15 days after the answer of the garnishee is filed with the court. The defendant's traverse states that the affidavit of garnishment is untrue or legally insufficient. The defendant may file a traverse at any time before a judgment is entered on the garnishee's answer. The garnishee must withhold funds until the judge rules on the traverse. The funds are held in the registry of the court until the traverse is ruled on. A traverse must be scheduled for a hearing within 10 days of the filing of the traverse.
  • What are the service (notice) requirements?
    Service on the Garnishee. The plaintiff must have the garnishee served personally or pursuant to a legally authorized service substitute (usually requiring permission from the Court) with a copy of:

    (1) the Affidavit of Garnishment;

    (2) the Summons of Garnishment; and

    (3) the Notice to Defendant of Right against Garnishment of Money, Including Wages and Other Property and Defendant's Claim Form. See O.C.G.A. 18-4-8(a) and 9-11-4.

    Service on the Defendant. Not later than three (3) business days after service of the garnishment on the garnishee, the plaintiff must also serve the defendant with:

    (1) the Affidavit of Garnishment;

    (2) the Summons of Garnishment; and

    (3) the Notice to Defendant of Right against Garnishment of Money, Including Wages and Other Property and Defendant's Claim Form.

    For all service after May 12, 2106, service on the defendant may only be made through the following methods:

    a. By regular mail to the defendant at the defendant's last known address and by registered or certified or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested. See O.C.G.A. 18-4-8(b)(1)(A).; or

    b. Personal service by the sheriff or other approved special process service.

    If the plaintiff can establish by affidavit that the defendant resides out of this state, has departed this state, cannot, after due diligence, be found within this state, or has concealed his or her place of residence from the plaintiff, the plaintiff may be permitted to serve the defendant by regular mail at the address at which the defendant was served as shown on the return of service in the action resulting in the judgment. A certificate of such mailing shall be filed with the clerk of the court in which the garnishment is pending by the person mailing such notice.

    If the plaintiff fails to serve the defendant within this statutory time period, no funds will be distributed, no default judgment will be entered against Garnishee, and the garnishment is subject to dismissal.

    To read the full text of the law regarding service and required notice click here.

  • How do I prove service?
    No money can be paid out until a Certificate of Service identifying the proper method of service on the garnishee and notice to the defendant, along with all other required documents, is filed with the Court. Plaintiff's obligation to provide notice of the garnishment to the defendant is governed by O.C.G.A. 18-4-8. Please read this code section if you are unfamiliar with garnishment law regarding notice to the defendant. Failure to obtain proper and timely service on both the garnishee and the defendant shall result in dismissal of the garnishment action.

    For a Certificate of Service Form, click here.