Wage Garnishments: Navigating the legal process with the help of seasoned attorneys
Updated: Feb 13
Garnishments can be a powerful tool for collecting on a debt, but it's important to understand the process and the laws that govern it. At Baner and Baner Law Firm, we have the experience and expertise to help clients navigate the process of wage garnishments in Washington State.
A writ of garnishment is a court order directing an employer or financial institution to withhold funds from the debtor and pay them to the creditor in order to satisfy a judgment. The procedures for this process are primarily governed by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 6.27. By far, the most common type of garnishment is a wage garnishment, in which a portion of an individual's wages are withheld by their employer and directed towards paying off a debt. For most debts this is 20-25% of the after-tax (and other required deduction) earnings. The second most common type of garnishment is those directed to banks.
The process of obtaining a writ of garnishment starts with an application for a writ presented to the court clerk. It looks something like this.
The application for a writ of garnishment also explains how much is owed on the judgment plus writ costs.
The creditor prepares the writ and if the clerk is satisfied with the application, then the clerk will issue the writ. Typically, the clerk is looking for major details being incorrect such as misspellings, whether a judgment exists, and the like. They are not liable for any mistakes and can, themselves, sometimes also make mistakes.
The writ is then sent back to the creditor's attorney who will send it to the judgment debtor and the garnishee (garnishee just means the employer or bank usually), along with an answer to be filled out and some other required forms. The garnishee will then prepare an “answer” indicating how much money the garnishee has belonging to the judgment debtor and send that answer to the judgment creditor’s attorney, judgment debtor, and to the court.
Assuming funds are located, then after the required time judgment creditor will motion (ask) the court for a “judgment on garnishee answer” and an “order to pay” that will grant a new judgment against the garnishee for the amount of money the garnishee is withholding and modify the original judgment for some attorney fees and most costs on garnishment. The order to pay directs the garnishee to pay the withheld funds to the judgment creditor's attorney (either directly or through the clerk’s office).
For an employer garnishee, the judgment creditor must first obtain a “second answer” from the garnishee that informs the amount of money the garnishee has withheld for the 60 days that a continuing lien on earnings garnishment is effective for. After obtaining the second answer, the judgment on garnishee answer and order to pay motions are brought to the Court. Basically, it is an additional step because the employer garnishment takes funds from each pay period to satisfy the garnishment, but the bank garnishments take what funds are in the bank only at the time the bank receives the writ of garnishment.
At Baner and Baner Law Firm, we understand the importance of getting paid and we will work with you to make sure that you get the outcome you deserve. If you're in need of assistance with wage garnishments or any other debt collection matter, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are here to help!