By Ryan C. Wood
Who can garnish wages is virtually unlimited. Anyone that has obtained a judgment against you can enforce or collect on the judgment by garnishing your wages unless it is the Internal Revenue Service or Franchise Tax Board. From a taxing authority you will receive a notice of levy and if you do not respond they will garnish your wages without obtaining a judgment. Your wages can also be garnished under rare circumstances if you have agreed to a wage assignment, which is different than wage garnishment.
All other parties must sue you by filing a complaint and serving you with the summons and complaint. Once served has been made the party can then obtain a judgment against you. If you ignore the complaint the party will be able to request entry of the judgment by default. If you choose to answer the complaint the party suing you will next be able to obtain a judgment by filing a motion for summary judgment by the court. If your debt and lawsuit are the result of a breach of contract like not paying a credit card company you will have very few defenses and they will most likely obtain a judgment against you.
Once the judgment is entered the next step is to enforce the judgment. Just because a party has obtained a judgment against does not necessarily mean they will spend more money to go through the process of enforcing the judgment. To enforce the judgment they can garnish your wages, levy on your bank accounts and record the judgment with the county in which you live hoping it will attach to any real property you may own.
If your wages are garnished you can file an exemption to reduce the amount that can be garnished each paycheck and even stop the garnishment altogether depending upon your circumstances. Filing bankruptcy will stop the garnishment of your wages and depending upon the circumstances get rid of the judgment forever too. Bankruptcy is not the only answer, but for many it is the permanent solution to making sure the enforcement of the judgment does not continue.
Many collection agencies improperly tell people that they are going to garnish their wages without having obtained a judgment in an attempt receive a payment. This could be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and any contact with the collection agency should be documented for future prosecution if it continues.