What is Garnishment Law?
A garnishment is a separate legal action that is filed against the garnishee. The garnishee is a person or business entity that owes funds to the judgment debtor, or is holding funds on behalf of the judgment debtor. There are two basic types of garnishments: a Summons of Garnishment and Continuing Garnishment. A Summons of Garnishment is used primarily for garnishing a bank account or other financial institution. A Continuing Garnishment is used solely for garnishing wages.
Most of the time, if you are looking to attach an amount of money in a bank or credit union, or take money that is being held for a defendant in a case, the process is a Summons of Garnishment. On our website, we labeled those forms “Financial Garnishment.” This is the process used against a bank, credit union, employer, general contractor, etc.
It is less expensive to file in Magistrate Court. The cost for filing a garnishment in State Court is $222.00. The cost for filing a garnishment in Magistrate Court is $54.00. Magistrate Court may only collect $15,000.00 or less including costs. If you wish the DeKalb County Marshal to serve the garnishee, there is an additional $35.00 for each garnishee served. There is no limit on the number of garnishees to an action. Personal or third-party checks are not accepted.
Am I eligible to file for garnishment?
Before a garnishment action may be filed, you must have a judgment against someone or a business. The garnishee bank/employer or someone you may serve on its behalf must be located in DeKalb County.
Steps of the Garnishment Process
- Before a garnishment action may be filed, you must have a judgment against someone or a business. The garnishee bank/employer or someone you may serve on its behalf must be located in DeKalb County.
- It is less expensive to file in Magistrate Court. The cost for filing a garnishment in State Court is $222.00. The cost for filing a garnishment in Magistrate Court is $54.00. Magistrate Court may only collect $15,000.00 or less including costs. If you wish the DeKalb County Marshal to serve the garnishee, there is an additional $35.00 for each garnishee served. There is no limit on the number of garnishees to an action. Personal or third-party checks are not accepted.
- All costs for filing a garnishment action and service fees may be recovered from the Debtor Defendant if any funds are received as a result of the action you file.
- If you decide to use a private process server, you must provide proof of service to the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office will not provide extra copies of the service documents for you, unless you pay for the copies.
- You will need the following forms: one Affidavit for Garnishment; one Summons of Garnishment; two copies of the Summons (one for the garnishee, the other for the Debtor Defendant); and two Marshall’s Entry of Service sheets (one for the garnishee, one for the Debtor Defendant). If you are filing a Continuing Garnishment, you will need 7 additional Answer Forms.
- You must attach a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Service Sheet to receive your copy back showing the date the Garnishee bank/employer was served. It may take up to 60 days from the date of service before the Court hears from the party served. A bank will freeze the Debtor Defendant’s account and send the Court the amount you filed your garnishment for, or the amount in the account, whichever is greater. An employer will withhold 25% of the net pay and send it to the Court.
- After you file your action, if you find that the Debtor Defendant has additional money in another bank account or another employer, you may add that Garnishee to the open case by filing an additional Summons of Garnishment for $35.00 (this includes service on the garnishee).
- The amount for which you file your garnishment is the amount that you were awarded in your judgment, the cost of your judgment, and any interest and court cost to which you may be entitled added together. The Clerk will add the garnishment cost to the action. Please note that the Clerk CANNOT properly calculate the garnishment cost if you do not supply the return of service documents (including return of service when you were unable to serve the Debtor Defendant or the garnishee), potentially resulting in an incomplete calculation of your garnishment costs by the Clerk.
- The Court will not contact you if no money is received, or no answer is filed. If after 60 days, you have not received a check from us, you may call to see if an answer has been filed. If no answer has been filed, you will need to contact an attorney to be advised of your next step.
- If you are not an attorney and you have not hired an attorney, then you are acting as your own attorney. The Court Clerk cannot give you any legal advice concerning garnishments.
- The Court cannot guarantee that you will receive any money when you file a garnishment. But if the Court receives funds for you, the funds will be mailed in a timely manner. If the Court does not have proof in its files that the Debtor Defendant has been served, the funds will be held until proof of service is filed. Funds remain in the registry for 20 days prior to payment, possibly longer if a traverse is filed by the Debtor Defendant. An Application for payment to condemn funds is required before funds are paid. Due to the large number of checks the Court processes, all checks are mailed.
- You may contact the Garnishment Office by calling 404-371-2261, option 4, for general information about a case. It can take up to 60 days before any information is available.
- All correspondence should be addressed to the Clerk of Magistrate Court of DeKalb County, DeKalb County Courthouse, 556 N. McDonough Street, Room 260, Decatur, GA 30030.
To speed up the garnishment process, please make sure you review all of the garnishment forms to select the correct package for filing. If you are using your own forms, they must substantially conform to the state-mandated garnishment forms to be accepted by the Clerk of Court. Incomplete forms may be rejected and/or it could take more time to process. Accordingly, when filling out garnishment forms, please pay attention to following:
- Please read the entire form before filling it out.
- Failure to fill out the form completely (including circling everything and filling in every blank) may result in a rejected filing. Specifically, do not forget to fill in the following:
- Personally appeared ________ [the name of the filer/affiant must be printed on the blank];
- Circle the correct identifier; are you the plaintiff, attorney for plaintiff, or agent for plaintiff;
- Fill in all the blank spaces for the principal amount owed, court costs, etc.; and
- Include the balance due.
- Do not forget to date the Affidavit.
- Make sure the balance due on the summons of garnishment and affidavit of garnishment match.
- Make sure you are using the correct service of process forms. Failure to use the correct service of process forms or failure to provide proof of service will prevent any payouts.
- In addition, if you have prepared the forms using your own template, please pre-print the name of the Magistrate Judge (September Guy) and the name of the Chief Magistrate (Hon. Berryl A. Anderson) in the appropriate blanks.
- You can also contact Shombraya Goodman (Temporary Protective Orders and DV Warrant Applications Calendars) at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Additional information is provided in our “FAQ” section.