Can they Garnish my Wages?

Recently, I’ve had several calls to my office about Garnishment of Wages, so perhaps a short article is in order. Wage Garnishment is a legal procedure in which a person’s earnings are required by court order to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt. The key to the preceding statement is the term “court order”. A garnishment of wages cannot occur without a judge agreeing to the garnishment. This means that some type of court action must occur. The creditor cannot merely attach or garnish your account without due process of law. In Pennsylvania, where I practice law, a Garnishment of Wages can occur only under limited circumstances. The most prevalent circumstance is for an obligation of child or spousal support. Garnishment is usually very easy to procure under those types of matters. Other circumstances where garnishment of wages can occur include repayment of PHEAA student loans, room and board for four weeks or less and obligations relating to a final divorce distribution. In PA, these are just about the only instances when your wages can be garnished while they are in the hands of your employer.

Many of the inquiries that I receive at my office are regarding credit card collections and garnishment of wages. Except under very limited or special circumstances, in Pennsylvania, an ordinary creditor cannot garnish your wages on a Pennsylvania case. This does not mean that the money that you earn cannot ever be garnished. There is a distinction here that must be made. Once the money is earned and deposited into your bank account, the monies are no longer wages. Those funds become part of the corpus of your bank account and are subject to garnishment. If a creditor is privy to your banking information AND if they have obtained a judgment against you, they will be able to garnish the funds in your bank account, even if those funds were at one time wages. This type of “regular” garnishment does not require a court order, but instead requires the creditor to obtain a judgment against you in a court of law. After a judgment is obtained, a creditor can commence garnishment proceedings by applying for a Writ of Execution. The Writ of Execution is delivered to your bank and your accounts are then frozen.

Greg Artim is an Attorney with offices located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more answers to your legal questions, please visit his website at www.gregartim.com