Writ Of Garnishment

Writ Of Garnishment
Writ Of Garnishment
Quick Summary of Writ Of Garnishment

A writ of garnishment is a legal order from a court that authorises a creditor to take a debtor’s property held by a third party. The third party, known as the garnishee, is instructed to retain the property until the debt is settled. For instance, if John owes £10,000 to his creditor and fails to repay it, the creditor can obtain a writ of garnishment against John’s bank account. In this case, the bank, acting as the garnishee, will be directed to freeze John’s account and retain the funds until the debt is satisfied. Similarly, if Mary has a £5,000 judgement against her, the creditor can file a writ of garnishment against Mary’s employer. The employer, serving as the garnishee, will be required to withhold a portion of Mary’s wages until the debt is paid off. These examples demonstrate the functioning of a writ of garnishment, which enables a creditor to recover a debt by seizing the debtor’s property held by a third party, who is then instructed to retain the property until the debt is settled.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Garnishment?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Garnishment

A writ of garnishment is a legal directive that authorises an individual to seize assets or funds from a debtor. The court instructs a third party, known as a garnishee, to transfer the assets or funds to the rightful creditor. This measure is taken to assist the creditor in obtaining the owed amount.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Garnishment

A Writ of Garnishment is a legal mechanism used to enforce a monetary judgment by seizing assets or wages from a third party, often referred to as the garnishee, who holds property or owes money to the judgment debtor. This tool is crucial for creditors seeking to collect debts when the debtor has failed to satisfy a court-ordered judgment. In British law, garnishment is a remedy available under various statutes and court rules, providing creditors with a means to recover debts directly from the debtor’s income or assets held by a third party.

The Legal Framework

The legal framework for garnishment in the United Kingdom primarily arises from the Common Law, statutory provisions, and the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). Key statutes include the Attachment of Earnings Act 1971, which governs the garnishment of wages, and the Third Party Debt Orders under Part 72 of the CPR, which facilitate the seizure of funds held by third parties.

Attachment of Earnings Orders

An Attachment of Earnings Order (AEO) is a specific type of garnishment used to deduct debt payments directly from the debtor’s wages. Governed by the Attachment of Earnings Act 1971, AEOs are typically used for maintenance orders, council tax arrears, and other court judgments.

  1. Application Process: A creditor must apply to the court for an AEO. The application requires detailed information about the debtor’s employment and earnings.
  2. Court Hearing: The court will schedule a hearing to assess the debtor’s financial situation. The debtor is required to provide comprehensive details of their income, expenses, and any dependents.
  3. Order Issuance: If the court is satisfied that an AEO is appropriate, it will issue an order specifying the amount to be deducted from the debtor’s wages. The employer, now the garnishee, is legally obliged to comply with the order and remit the specified amounts directly to the court or creditor.
  4. Protection for Debtors: The Act provides safeguards to ensure that debtors are not left destitute. The court calculates a ‘protected earnings rate’, below which deductions cannot be made, ensuring the debtor retains sufficient funds for basic living expenses.

Third-Party Debt Orders

Third-Party Debt Orders (TPDOs), formerly known as garnishee orders, are governed by Part 72 of the CPR. TPDOs allow creditors to intercept funds held by third parties, such as bank accounts, to satisfy a judgment debt.

  1. Interim Order: The creditor applies for an interim TPDO, which freezes the debtor’s funds held by the third party. This prevents the debtor from withdrawing or disposing of the funds before the court hearing.
  2. Service and Notice: The interim order is served on both the garnishee (e.g., the bank) and the debtor. The garnishee is required to disclose the amount of money held on behalf of the debtor.
  3. Final Hearing: At the final hearing, the court decides whether to make the TPDO permanent. The debtor and garnishee have the opportunity to present their cases. If the order is made final, the garnishee is instructed to transfer the specified funds to the creditor.
  4. Limitations and Exemptions: Certain funds may be exempt from TPDOs, such as social security benefits and pensions. Additionally, the court may limit the order to ensure that the debtor retains sufficient funds for essential living expenses.

Garnishment of Bank Accounts

Garnishment of bank accounts under the TPDO process is one of the most common forms of garnishment. The process is straightforward but involves several legal steps to ensure fairness and compliance with due process.

  1. Application: The creditor applies for a TPDO by submitting an application to the court, detailing the judgment debt and identifying the bank where the debtor’s account is held.
  2. Interim Order: Upon reviewing the application, the court may issue an interim TPDO, freezing the debtor’s bank account. This prevents any withdrawals or transactions until the final hearing.
  3. Disclosure by Bank: The bank is required to disclose the amount held in the debtor’s account and confirm whether the funds are sufficient to cover the debt.
  4. Final Order: At the final hearing, the court considers any objections from the debtor and the bank. If satisfied, the court will issue a final TPDO, directing the bank to pay the creditor from the debtor’s account.

Garnishment and Employment Law

Garnishment intersects with employment law primarily through AEOs. Employers must navigate the legal requirements to comply with AEOs while protecting employees’ rights.

  1. Employer Obligations: Employers served with an AEO must deduct the specified amount from the employee’s wages and remit it as directed by the court. Failure to comply can result in legal penalties.
  2. Employee Rights: Employees are protected from unfair treatment or dismissal due to wage garnishment. The Employment Rights Act 1996 prohibits employers from dismissing employees solely because they are subject to an AEO.
  3. Multiple Orders: If an employee is subject to multiple AEOs, the employer must prioritize deductions according to legal guidelines, ensuring that the total deductions do not exceed the protected earnings rate.

Legal Safeguards and Debtor Protection

The legal system incorporates several safeguards to protect debtors from excessive garnishment and ensure fair treatment.

  1. Protected Earnings: Courts set a protected earnings rate, ensuring that debtors retain sufficient income for basic living expenses.
  2. Hardship Applications: Debtors can apply to the court for a variation or suspension of a garnishment order if it causes undue hardship.
  3. Exempt Funds: Certain types of income, such as social security benefits and pensions, are generally exempt from garnishment to protect vulnerable individuals.
  4. Appeals and Reviews: Debtors have the right to appeal against garnishment orders and request reviews if their financial circumstances change.

International Aspects

Garnishment can involve international elements, particularly when debtors have assets or income abroad. Cross-border garnishment is governed by international treaties and EU regulations, such as the Brussels I Regulation.

  1. Recognition and Enforcement: Foreign judgments can be recognized and enforced in the UK under specific treaties and regulations, facilitating garnishment of assets held abroad.
  2. Mutual Assistance: UK courts may seek assistance from foreign courts to enforce garnishment orders, and vice versa, under mutual legal assistance agreements.
  3. Jurisdictional Issues: Cross-border garnishment involves complex jurisdictional issues, requiring careful legal analysis to determine the appropriate forum and applicable laws.


The writ of garnishment is a vital legal tool for creditors seeking to enforce monetary judgments. It provides a structured and regulated process to intercept and seize assets or income from debtors through third parties. While it serves as an effective means for debt recovery, the legal framework ensures that debtors are protected from excessive and unfair garnishment, balancing the interests of creditors and debtors.

Understanding the intricacies of garnishment laws, including the procedures for Attachment of Earnings Orders and Third Party Debt Orders, is essential for legal practitioners, creditors, and debtors. The safeguards and protections embedded in the legal system aim to prevent abuse and ensure equitable outcomes. As such, garnishment remains a crucial component of the debt enforcement landscape in the United Kingdom.

Writ Of Garnishment FAQ'S

A writ of garnishment is a legal order that allows a creditor to collect a debt by seizing a portion of the debtor’s wages, bank accounts, or other assets.

A creditor who has obtained a judgment against a debtor can apply for a writ of garnishment to enforce the judgment and collect the debt.

A writ of garnishment can be used to collect various types of debts, including unpaid loans, credit card debts, medical bills, and child support payments.

Once a writ of garnishment is issued, it is served on the debtor’s employer or financial institution. The employer or institution is then legally obligated to withhold a portion of the debtor’s wages or funds and send them directly to the creditor.

In most cases, a writ of garnishment cannot be issued without prior notice to the debtor. The debtor must be given an opportunity to respond and challenge the garnishment before it takes effect.

Yes, there are federal and state laws that impose limits on the amount that can be garnished from a debtor’s wages or bank accounts. These limits are intended to ensure that debtors have enough income to meet their basic living expenses.

Yes, a debtor has the right to object to a writ of garnishment. They can challenge the garnishment by claiming exemptions, proving that the debt is not valid, or demonstrating that the garnishment would cause undue hardship.

A writ of garnishment typically remains in effect until the debt is fully satisfied or until the court orders it to be released. In some cases, the debtor may be able to negotiate a settlement or payment plan to stop the garnishment.

Under federal law, an employer cannot terminate an employee solely because of a single garnishment. However, multiple garnishments or excessive wage withholding may lead to termination. Other consequences may include damage to the debtor’s credit score and difficulty obtaining future credit.

A debtor may be able to stop a writ of garnishment by paying off the debt in full or by negotiating a settlement with the creditor. Additionally, if the debtor can prove that the garnishment is causing extreme financial hardship, they may be able to request a modification or termination of the garnishment order.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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