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AZ Statewide Paralegal




What is Garnishment?

Garnishment is a legal proceeding in which the plaintiff seeks to have a debt satisfied by accessing money that is owed to the debtor by one or more third parties. The example familiar to most people is wage garnishment, in which a portion of the debtor’s employment earnings may be paid directly to the plaintiff. Garnishment can be pursued under many circumstances. For example, after a divorce if the party ordered to pay child support or spousal maintenance fails to do so, garnishment may be an option to secure payment.

 Wage Garnishment

Garnishment includes both earnings garnishment (garnishing wages the debtor is earning at a job), which is the most common, and the less-common non-earnings garnishment (garnishing the debtor’s bank account, for example). This article focuses on the process for earnings or wage garnishment.


Wage garnishment is an option that is available when you have a money judgment against another person. A judgment is a court order for the person to pay you. It could be in a divorce settlement or from a lawsuit — any situation in which a court has ordered someone to pay you and that person has failed to do so.

The types of wages that can be garnished include salaries, commissions, wages, bonuses, or other income. Retirement income, including pensions, can also be garnished. Social security benefits cannot be garnished except by the federal government.


Representing Yourself

You have the option of representing yourself during the wage garnishment process if you as the individual are a party in the case.  If however, you are a member of an LLC or are authorized to conduct business on behalf of a corporation and the corporation is the party in the case, the business must be represented by an attorney. The process can be complicated, and it is important that you file all the paperwork and forms that are involved corrected. If you file incorrectly, you might find yourself responsible for paying any costs incurred by the garnishee as a result of your filing for garnishment.


Please consult an attorney to start your garnishment matter. AZ Statewide Paralegal no longer assists in this area.


Who is Involved in the Wage Garnishment Process?


The person who owes you money is called the “judgment debtor.” The term “judgment” is used because you already have a judgment by the court that legally affirms she or he owes you money. You, the person owed money, are the “judgment creditor.” The “garnishee” is the third party, usually the employer of the person who owes you money, from whom you hope to collect the money owed to you by the judgment debtor.


In order to file for garnishment, you must have specific and accurate financial information, including the physical address of the garnishee. If you are unable to get this information, you may need to first request the court to order the judgment debtor to disclose information you need to file for garnishment.


The Forms and Process


To file for garnishment through the courts in Arizona, the money or property of the judgment debtor needs to be in Arizona.


The garnishment process begins with filling out the “Application for Writ of Garnishment” and “Writ of Garnishment and Summons.” There are several other forms that also need to be filled out and submitted to the court along with a copy of the judgment awarding you money against the judgment debtor. (If you are divorced, your Decree of Dissolution of Marriage is the judgment.)


After you file these papers with the Court Clerk’s office, the Clerk will return some forms and we arrange for the garnishee (remember, the garnishee is the employer of the person who owes you money) to be served with the garnishment papers. You  will provide proof to the court that the garnishee has been properly served.


You  then have a limited time frame to deliver the documents to the judgment debtor. Arrange service and then file proof with the court that you’ve delivered the garnishment documents to the debtor.


One of the documents given to the person who owes you money is a form to request a hearing on the wage garnishment. The judgment debtor may request a hearing after reviewing the garnishment documents. If they do, then a hearing date will be set up with the court.


Meanwhile, the garnishee has 10 business days to complete the Garnishee’s Answer and file it with the court. If the garnishee fails to answer, then  the petition that will result in a hearing being scheduled for the garnishee. The judge may then order the garnishee to pay you any part of the money owed to you.


If the garnishee answers, the information provided will give you guidance as to how to proceed next. If the person who owes you money is not employed by the garnishee, then the garnishee is released. If the judgment debtor is employed by the garnishee, then  wait an additional 15 days for the person who owes you money to respond to the answer from the garnishee.


Then file your “Application for Order of Continuing Lien” and make sure the garnishee and judgment debtor also get the proper paperwork at this stage of the process. If an objection is filed then the Court will hold a hearing on the objection. You will attend that hearing.


Reporting and Satisfying the Money Judgment


There are some limitations on how much money can be garnished from the pay of the judgment debtor. This helps to ensure that the person who owes you money has enough left to pay for living expenses. Arizona follows the United States laws for limits on wage garnishments. It is the lesser of 25% of the non-exempt weekly earnings or the amount of non-exempt weekly earning that exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage. If the person who owes you money also has garnishments from other creditors, there is a limit of 25% on the total of all garnishments.


As the judgment creditor, you are responsible for reporting money that you receive through the garnishment. This is called the Creditor’s Garnishment Report. It is not filed with the court, but instead is sent to the judgment debtor (the person who owes you money) and the garnishee (the judgment debtor’s employer). The report includes money that has been paid to you and what is still owed.


Once you have been paid in full, file a petition and order that discharge the garnishee and then file a “Satisfaction of Judgment.”


If the person who owes you money stops being employed by the garnishee during this garnishment process, before you have been paid in full, you will also file the “Petition and Order Discharging Garnishee.”


Please consult an attorney to start your garnishment matter. AZ Statewide Paralegal no longer assists in this area.