Garnishee Order

A garnishee order is a common form of enforcing a judgment debt against a creditor to recover money. It is an order given by a court instructing a person not to pay the debt, which he owes to his creditors. A person receiving such an order from the court is called a garnishee. Once the court issues a garnishee order, the employer or bank legally has to comply with it. It can be deducted from your salary to pay off a debt but can’t leave you without enough money to live on.

Put simply, the court directs a third party that owes money to the judgment debtor to instead pay the judgment creditor. A garnishee order is a court order that is served by the sheriff (or messenger) of the court on the employer ordering the employer to make deductions from an employee’s salary or wage in settlement of a debt owed by the employee to a third-party creditor. The third-party is called a ‘garnishee’.

A garnishee order is a legal notice the court issues that allows the creditor to collect the amount from either:

  • the debtor’s wages,
  • the debtor’s bank account, or
  • other people who owe the debtor money (e.g. a real estate agent who is collecting rent).

It can be a useful debt enforcement tool, essentially bypassing the judgment debtor and going to a third party to obtain payment for a debt. A specified amount of money is deducted from the employee’s salary or wages each time the employee is paid until the debt owed by the employee has been paid in full. As a garnishee order ‘chips’ away at the debt, it’s best used for smaller amounts owing. The length of time will depend on factors such as the judgment debtor’s salary. However, the advantage is that a garnishee order ensures that your judgment debt will eventually be paid.

If a court has made a judgment in your favor, you can obtain a garnishee order to enforce the payment of your debt by the person owning that owes you money. A court will only make such an order when it is satisfied that there is a valid underlying debt, there has been a valid written consent to the order being taken or the court has previously made an order instructing that the debtors (employee’s) salary or wage be attached. Essentially, this means you are able to dip into their income or accounts with permission from the court to recover the money they owe you.