Garnish Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Garnish, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Garnish?

(v) Garnish is the issuing of a court order directing a person or entity to withhold the funds, or the payments due to another person or entity against whom a legal claim is pending for disposal.

History and Meaning of Garnish

Garnishment is a legal process that allows a creditor to take part of a debtor's wages or assets to pay off a debt. The term comes from the Latin word "garniri," meaning to warn or to arm. Garnishment has been around in some form for centuries, and its purpose is to ensure that a creditor can collect on a judgment against a debtor who has failed to pay what they owe.

The modern garnishment process is usually initiated through a court order, which directs a third-party employer or financial institution to withhold a portion of a debtor's wages or assets and send them directly to the creditor until the debt is paid in full.

Garnishment laws vary from state to state and country to country, but in general, there are limits to how much can be garnished from a debtor's wages or assets. These limits are designed to protect the debtor from being left without enough money to cover their basic living expenses.

Examples of Garnish

  1. After winning a lawsuit against her former employer, Jane requested a garnishment order against the company to collect the money she was owed.

  2. John was behind on his child support payments, and as a result, his wages were garnished to ensure that his ex-wife and children received the support they were entitled to.

  3. The bank where Mary had her checking account was served with a garnishment order, and a portion of her account balance was seized to pay off a judgment against her.

Legal Terms Similar to Garnish

  1. Levy: A legal process in which a creditor obtains a court order to take possession of a debtor's property and sell it to pay off a debt.

  2. Attachment: A legal process in which a creditor obtains a court order to freeze a debtor's assets, such as a bank account, until a debt is paid.

  3. Lien: A legal right or claim against a debtor's property that can be used to satisfy a debt.