LawRefs Customized Legal Information
Attorney Renee C. Walsh

Garnishment

Find the Michigan statutory law on garnishment and attachment at MCL 600.4001 et seq. and the procedural rules at MCR 3.101.

Garnishment allows a creditor who has a judgment to take or “attach” property of the debtor that is held by someone other than the debtor (the garnishee) as payment, and usually their first attack are the debtor’s wages and bank accounts.

The creditor must wait until after the time for appeal, any motion for new trial, or for rehearing or reconsideration, or for other relief from judgment to lapse before they execute the judgment or begin garnishment.  Execution orders the sheriff to take the debtor’s property or money from his hands, while garnishment takes his property or money held by someone else.  MCL 600.6001 to 600.6098 et seq.; MCR 3.101 – 3.110 (Special Proceedings).

Verified Statement:  A judgment creditor wanting to collect on a judgment must file a verified statement, which serves as the complaint against the garnishee defendant. The party holding the debtor’s property is referred to as the garnishee defendant and their disclosure serves as the answer.

MCR 2.114(A) and MCL 3.101(D) apply to the verified statement in which the affiant plaintiff asserts in the verified statement that a judgment entered against the defendant remains unsatisfied; the amount of the judgment and the unpaid balance; and that he knows or has good reason to believe that the person named (the garnishee defendant) has control of property that belongs to the defendant, is indebted to the defendant, or is obligated to make periodic payments to the defendant. The court cannot require supporting documentation in addition to the verified statement. The writ must be issued based upon the verified statement. Credit Acceptance Corp v 46th Dist Court, 273 Mich App 594, 733 NW2d 65 (2007), aff’d, 481 Mich 883, 748 NW2d 883 (2008).

Approved forms:  Approved forms for garnishment proceedings can be found at the Michigan State Court Administrative Office website SCAO.

Write of Garnishment:  In addition to the verified statement, a writ of garnishment must be completed with enough information to permit the garnishee to identify the defendant.

Once the writ is issued, the plaintiff has 91 days to serve it on the garnishee in compliance with MCR 2.105. Once served, the order is effective to restrain the transfer of the amount of money or the property, which is subject to a garnishment lien. Unless the garnishee is notified of objections, the money disclosed is paid. If there is an objection a hearing is held.

What can be garnished:  Up to 25 percent of disposable earnings per week may be garnisheed unless the debtor earns minimum wage or near minimum wage. 15 USC 1673; MCR 3.101(G)(1)(f). Garnishment of periodic payments will last for 91 days (from the date the writ is issued) or until the judgment, plus interest and costs, is satisfied. MCL 600.4012(1)(a),(b); MCR 3.101(B)(1)(a). The 91 days runs from the date the writ is issued, not from the date it is served. MCR 3.101(B)(1)(a)(ii).

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Exemptions:  Social security, unemployment compensation, and worker compensation benefits are exempt in whole or in part from garnishment. MCL 400.63 allows the Family Independence Agency to deduct up to 10 percent of a cash grant to give to a landlord judgment creditor for a tenant’s breach of lease. Generally pension and annuity plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 USC 1001 et seq., are not subject to garnishment. There is an exception where a divorce or child support order or there is child abuse. See the Child Abuse Accountability Act, 5 USC 8345(j)(1); 5 CFR 838.1101.

Installment payments:  A defendant can file a petition for installment payments to stop withholding periodic garnishments. If the writ of garnishment has not expired at that point, withholding resumes until the writ’s expiration. MCR 3.101(N)(1), (2). An order for installment payments does not suspend the effectiveness of a writ of garnishment of nonperiodic payments or of an income tax refund or credit. MCR 3.101(N)(1).

Property:  The creditor may procure a writ of execution against personal property. If the judgment remains unsatisfied, then a writ of execution against real property of the debtor can be issued.

Additional resource:
Wyoming Law Enforcement of Judgments.
Certificate of Satisfied Judgment. Michigan Form, MCC 17.

Discussion:

  1. I had a court ordered garnishment and paid the debt in full. I went to the court to show proof and was told to request a hearing. The garnishment has not stopped in the meantime. What can I do?

    • Dear Latasha:

      You can file a form, Certificate of Satisfied Judgment, with the Court and submit it to the court for the judge’s signature. The Michigan form is available at the bottom of the article above. The creditor should have done this already. Let them know that they must sign the form immediately and request that they reimburse you for all fees/costs associated with taking your money when they had been paid in full.

  2. I worked out a payment agreement with a creditor, but missed Feb and March’s payments due to illness and being off work. I failed to contact them. They issued a writ of garnishment of my paycheck. I just filed a Motion for Installment Payments for $300 a month are these usually granted? I’m so sick over this, I have contemplated bankruptcy but I want to pay my debts off because it’s the responsible thing to do.

    • Dear Amanda:

      Contact the creditor before the hearing and offer them the $300 per month. Contacting them before court shows that it is not you who is wasting the court’s time because you tried to work it out. Make sure you keep notes of the time, date, contents, parties of the communication. At those hearings, it is protocol for the creditor’s representative to meet with the debtor ahead of time and work out a payment agreement, so yes, a motion would probably be granted if the amount is reasonable. If the hearing goes forward, make sure you confirm that there are no costs assessed to you because you tried to work it out ahead of time, but the creditor pressed the hearing. You are in a perfect position to negotiate to settle for a lesser lump sum settlement and should consider laying a foundation for an accord and satisfaction / “payment in full” check.

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