Pennsylvania Garnishment Law. What is it, and when can it occur?
A Garnishment is a means of collecting on a monetary judgment against a defendant by ordering a non-involved third party to pay the debt. The typical scenario is where a creditor obtains a judgment against a defendant and then tries to obtain funds (garnish) from the defendant's bank account. In a credit card case in Pennsylvania, this can only be accomplished after a final judgment has been entered in a court of law, after the filing of a lawsuit. The key in avoiding a garnishment is to defend against the lawsuit so that a final judgment is not entered. A garnishment cannot be had without a final judgment except in very limited circumstances typically involving government sponsered actions.
Spousal bank accounts cannot be garnished by a creditor unless that creditor obtains a judgment against both spouses. Other types of joint bank accounts (parent-child, friend-friend) may be subject to a garnishment if a judgment is entered against only one of the account owners.
A common threat that we see at our office is the threat of wage garnishment. To be clear, any threat of wage garnishment by a creditor in Pennsylvania is illegal. Wage garnishment can only occur in very limited circumstances in Pennsylvania, such as:
- judgments for spousal or child support
- PHEAA student loans
- room and board for four(4) weeks or less
- back rent on a residential lease
- obligations relating to a final divorce distribution
If a creditor has threatened to garnish your wages, that is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). You may have the right to bring a claim against them, and you may be entitled to a statutory damage award in the amount of $1000, plus the recovery of your reasonable attorney fees.
Contact our office today at 412-281-1250 or 1-888-536-6644 for a no cost, no obligation review of your garnishment law issue.