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Breaking Down the Dollars: Costs of a Writ of Garnishment

How much does a writ of garnishment cost?

A writ of garnishment can be a valuable tool in debt collection. A common question is relating to costs of course. Costs means something different than legal fees. For the overwhelming majority of our cases the legal fee is contingency based: we take a percentage of what is recovered, or no recovery, then no fee



However, costs are something that must always be paid by our clients. This is an ethical requirement. We advance these costs as a convenience, but ultimatly our clients are responsible for them. Of course, in most circumstances the costs are paid from the recovery though.


In order to provide a clear picture of what expenses (i.e. costs) it is helpful to use an employment based garnishment from Pierce County Superior Court as an example. The short version is that the costs will be about $91.16 broken down as follows:


Expense

Cost

Mail costs to garnishee & debtor

$23.33

Mail costs to garnishee for 2nd answer

$3.96

Mail costs to garnishee with order to pay

$0.87

Court costs (writ fee + convenience fee)

$21.50

Ex parte (finalization costs + convenience fee)

$41.50

Total

$91.16


Reminder on what a writ of garnishment is:

A writ of garnishment is a powerful instrument that can help creditors recover debts owed to them. A writ of garnishment directed to an employer requires a judgment to have already been entered. It also requires several steps along the way and is a process that must usually be repeated every 2 months. It involves a substantial amount of paperwork being mailed around to the involved parties. The end result, however, is that it allows for 2 months of a judgment debtor's wages to be set aside for the benefit of paying the judgment off.


Executing this process comes with several costs, which may vary to some degree based upon what county and court the case is in. Tacoma, which is in Pierce County and where we are physically located, has a relatively average price for Superior Courts. As such it is a useful hypothetical example.


warehouse workers moving boxes
Garnishments use a lot of paper, but slightly less than this.

Mailing Costs:

The garnishment process involves various stages of communication with the court, the debtor, and the garnishee (in this hypothetical case, the employer). Most of these communications are achieved through mailing, resulting in multiple mailing costs throughout the process:



  1. Application for a writ of garnishment and Proposed Writ of Garnishment to the Court: $0 is required for mailing costs to send the garnishment writ to the court. Why? Because Pierce Superior has the best online system in the State for this process. Thus we send the writ to Pierce County through their online system at no client cost for mail.

  2. Writ to the Garnishee and Debtor: After the writ is approved and returned, it needs to be sent to the garnishee and the debtor. This involves certified mail to ensure delivery, costing around $23.33. There are about 7 envelopes used at this stage.

  3. Request Second Answer from the Garnishee: After about 50 days, a second answer is requested from the garnishee, which costs around $3.96.

  4. Finalization to the Court: Once the garnishment process is finalized, the documentation needs to be sent to the court. This costs around $3.42 but in Pierce County Superior Court there is no cost because it is done online.

  5. Finalization to the Garnishee: The final step involves mailing the finalized order to the garnishee. This comes at a minimal cost of $0.87.



Court costs:

Along with mailing costs, court fees are also involved in the garnishment process. These fees are specific to the court where the process is undertaken, and in this case, the Pierce County Superior Court:

  1. Writ Fee to the Court: The court charges a fee for the writ of garnishment, which is $20, and an additional $1.50 convenience fee, making it a total of $21.50.

  2. Ex Parte (Finalization) Fee: After the garnishment is finalized, there's a fee for filing the finalization, which costs $40, along with a $1.50 convenience fee, adding up to $41.50. This step is vital for the Court to have a chance to verify that everything was done correctly.

In total, a creditor can expect to incur around $91.16 in costs to execute a writ of garnishment in Pierce County Superior Court. Understanding these costs can help you plan your debt recovery strategy more efficiently and help set expectations for the road ahead.


Importantly, almost all of these costs are fully recoverable. We recommend not seeking 100% of the mailing costs as the Courts are not always as familiar with the true costs of everything. As of July 2023 we usually recommend seeking $20 and accepting that the $7 or so dollars isn't worth risking the finalization being delayed for.


At Garnishment Gurus, part of Baner & Baner Law Firm, we specialize in enforcing judgments across Washington state. With a wealth of experience and a keen understanding of the complexities involved, we strive to provide the best possible service to our clients. If you have a judgment that needs enforcing, don't hesitate to contact us. Let our expertise guide you through the process.

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