Enforcement of Judgment Against Debtor's Earnings


In previous editions of this article, a multitude of theories of recovery for injuries or damages caused by another have been set forth and discussed. If a theory of recovery is successfully advanced, and a judgment obtained, the next issue often is how to enforce the judgment. Avid readers of our weekly article will remember that one method of satisfying a judgment, a judgment lien on real property, has been already discussed. In this edition, we turn to another method of judgment enforcement, wage garnishment.

The process of garnishing a judgment debtor’s wages first requires that the creditor have a writ of execution issued by the court in which the judgment was obtained. Upon issuance of the writ, one thereafter must prepare an application for an earnings withholding order as well as instructions to the levying officer, typically the Sheriff. The writ along with the application and instructions are then provided to the Sheriff. The Sheriff thereafter prepares an Earnings Withholding Order which is served on the judgment debtor’s employer. The employer is then required to provide certain information to the Sheriff regarding the judgment debtor’s employment, as well as notify the employee/judgment debtor of the withholding order. The judgment debtor is given ten (10) days after being notified to seek legal advice, arrange an alternative method of payment to the judgment creditor, or file a claim of exemption. A claim of exemption allows the judgment debtor to avoid garnishment in certain circumstances.

If the withholding order is not contested by the filing of a claim of exemption by the judgment debtor, or if the claim of exemption is filed but denied, the employer will begin withholding wages from the employee/judgment debtor. The wages withheld will then be forwarded to the Sheriff, who in turn provides the funds to the judgment creditor.

Wage garnishment is limited to twenty-five percent (25%) of a person’s wages in most circumstances and fifty percent (50%) for spousal and child support. Apart from the results wage garnishment can obtain as discussed hereinabove, initiating the wage garnishment process may also have practical effects. The possibility of garnishment may compel the debtor to reach an agreement with the judgment creditor to pay the judgment to avoid the embarrassment of having his employer withhold wages.

In many ways, wage garnishment is an effective way to satisfy a judgment. It is important to note, however, that wage garnishment may cause the debtor to file for bankruptcy or to explore avenues of asset protection that ordinarily he would not have considered in the absence of the withholding order. Accordingly, if you have a judgment and would like to determine whether wage garnishment or any other collection methods are feasible, it is advised that you consult with an experienced attorney.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail kureyeslaw@gmail.com; visit at www.kenreyeslaw.com

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