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Garnishment is a legal process that allows a third party to seize assets of a debtor. For example, a creditor, who can be a winning party in a suit or a creditor in a bankruptcy case, can acquire the wage of the debtorthrough the debtor’s employer.

The creditor will file a new action for the garnishment, in which the debtor will be the garnishee and the creditor will be the plaintiff. The plaintiff must serve the garnishee a notice, so that the garnishee can answer or contest, just like in a normal lawsuit. If the court finds for the plaintiff, the garnishee will allow the plaintiff to garnish his or her assets in a third party’s control, such as wage or money in a bank account.

Wage garnishment, among all the garnishments, is especially controversy. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, do not allow wage garnishment except for tax, child support, student loan, or court-ordered fines. Other states normally limit the percentage of wage that can be garnished. For example, in New Jersey, a creditor cannot take more than 10% of a debtor’s wage (check this website for more information of states’ laws regarding wage garnishment).

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]