Written by Joseph T. Brasher


This hand out is designed to provide a quick-reference when responding to garnishment process served by judgment creditors seeking to collect money owed to them by employees. Georgia law provides that a judgment creditor is entitled to withhold up to 25% of the debtor’s disposable earnings or 50% of an individual’s disposable earnings if the underlying award is for alimony or child support. The most frequent type of garnishment used by creditors will be a summons of continuing garnishment. This will be discussed in detail below. In an nutshell, a continuing garnishment requires the employer, as garnishee, to withhold money from the employee’s disposable income and to submit an answer, paying the amounts withheld to the court every 45 days.

Copies of the code sections which deal with continuing garnishments, regular garnishment (one time garnishment), child support and alimony recovery and tax levy are attached for reference at the tab which correspondence with the topic number. Although the statutes may appear confusing, once an understanding of the general framework is obtained, referring to the actual statute may be your best source of information. Also, attached is a form answer used in responding to a continuing garnishments. This will be the most frequently used garnishment proceeding encountered by an employer. There is also a proposed answer for a one-time garnishment. This answer should not be used in responding to a continuing garnishment. This type of garnishment is usually served on banks and other financial institutions. It is possible, however, that a creditor may file a one time garnishment on an employer. If this occurs, only one answer should be made within 30 days of service of the regular garnishment. Unlike the continuing garnishment, once the answer and money withheld have been paid to the court in which the garnishment is pending, there is no duty to file a subsequent answer.


Garnishment is an in rem proceeding (a proceeding against property rather than an individual) by a creditor for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction of an indebtedness due the creditor by the defendant for money or property owed to the defendant by a third person, the garnishee. When a plaintiff sues another person (the defendant) a court lacks the authority to order the defendant to pay money damages to the plaintiff. All the court can do is enter a judgment of record which demonstrates to all the world that the debtor/defendant is indebted to the creditor/plaintiff. The burden is then placed on the plaintiff to actually collect the debt. The most commonly utilized means to collect a judgment debt is through garnishment. There are two types of garnishment in Georgia, continuing garnishment and one time garnishment. Continuing garnishment is most often utilized to obtain wages which are owed to the judgment debtor by his employer.

Continuing garnishment will only apply in cases where the garnishee is an employer of the judgment debtor/defendant. See O.C.G.A. §18-4-110. Garnishment initiated under this code section reaches all debts (wages) which the garnishee owes the judgment debtor/defendant from the date of service to the petition through the 179th day thereafter. The garnishment applies to all property, money or effects of the judgment debtor which are in the possession or control of the garnishee during the period.

The garnishment process begins with a filing of an affidavit given by the creditor providing the relevant information concerning the judgment against the debtor, along with the total amount claimed due. A summons is then issued in order to bring the garnishee into court in the same manner as an ordinary suit. The plaintiff has the responsibility to include all the necessary information in the summons of garnishment, including the specific amount claimed due at the time the summons is filed.

Most of the state courts provide form affidavits which contain language preprinted on the form which instructs the garnishee that they must file an answer every 45 days. It is also the plaintiff/judgment creditor’s responsibility to provide a sufficient number of forms for the garnishee to file seven answers to a summons of continuing garnishment. Once a summons of continuing garnishment has been served, the garnishee will be required to file answers in intervals of not more than 45 days. See O.C.G.A. §18-4-117. If the judgment debtor is not employed by the garnishee/employer, or during the term of the continuing garnishment the debtor stops working for the garnishee, then an answer by the garnishee stating that fact will terminate the continuing garnishment.

The summons and garnishment must be served upon the defendant, as well as the garnishee. Once the garnishment summons has been served, it is the responsibility of the garnishee (employer) to comply with the requirements regarding response to the garnishment. O.C.G.A. §18-4-64 provides that all wages which are subject to the garnishment must be collected, held and submitted with the garnishee’s answer no later than 45 days after service of the garnishment petition.

Disposable earnings are specifically defined as “that part of the earnings of an individual remaining after deduction from those earnings of the amounts required by law to be withheld.” Certain payroll deductions, other than the amounts required by law to be withheld, may be included in the calculation of disposable earnings. For example, FICA, State and Federal tax withholdings constitute amounts that are “required by law to be withheld.” However, deductions for group life or health insurance, as well as elective savings, although deducted from the employee’s pay, are not required to be withheld by law. Accordingly, any amounts that are paid for this type of insurance or savings should be included when determining disposable earnings.

Only a portion of an individual’s wages are subject to garnishment. Due to the concern of the Georgia legislature to afford an individual and his family some protection from the economic hardships that may result from a garnishment of wages, a formula was created to limit the amount of wages subject to garnishment. The amount of wages subject to garnishment may not exceed the lessor of 25% of the debtor’s disposable earnings for that period, or the amount by which the disposable earnings for that period exceed 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage per week.

Currently, the minimum wage is $5.15. If an employee were earning $500.00 per week with $150.00 in gross pay reduction for Federal and State withholding, he would have disposable earnings of $350.00. Twenty-five percent of $350.00 would be $87.50 per week. This is the amount that would be subject to garnishment. In this scenario, 25% would be less than the amount of earnings which exceed thirty times the minimum wage. If the total amount of earnings which exceeded thirty times the Federal minimum wage were used, the amount of disposable earnings subject to garnishment would be approximately $346.00. The statute provides that the lesser of the two calculations for determining disposable earnings be used when determining wages subject to garnishment. In the foregoing example, $87.50 is substantially less than $345.00, so the 25% calculation would be used in this scenario. As a general rule, the “thirty times Federal wage” factor will only be used for low earning employees.

Please use the following when calculating disposable earnings:

Gross Earnings: $-----

Total Social Security and Withholding Tax: ($-----)

Total Disposable Earnings: $-----

Amount of Wages Subject to Continuing x 25% Garnishment: $-----

Child Support Garnishment: $----- x 50% $-----

Remaining amount of disposable earnings per week subject to the within garnishment $-----

Reasonable expenses deducted pursuant to O.C.G.A. §18-4-97 (10% or $25.00, whichever is greater--not to exceed $50.00): ($-----)

Amount Herewith Paid Into Court: $-----

Also, note that the garnishee is entitled to a right to set-off if the garnishee (employer) also has a claim against the debtor. It has been held by the Georgia Court of Appeals that a garnishee has a lien on the funds which are in its possession which is superior to the claim of the judgment creditor in the garnishment action. Therefore, the garnishee is entitled to be paid prior to surrendering funds to other creditors. Fontaine v. Stuhler, 179 Ga.App. 584, 323 S.E.2d 881 (1984).


One time or traditional garnishment most often targets a financial institutional as the garnishee. This is usually in an attempt to obtain funds from a judgment debtor’s financial accounts to be used in satisfaction of a judgment. Generally, there is no application of the one-time garnishment procedures to an employer. However, occasionally a judgment creditor representing himself will file this type of petition without realizing that there is another continuing garnishment remedy which is more suited to the employer/employer context. This type of garnishment will often request accounts, deposits, certificate of deposits or other financial effects as being subject to the garnishment.

To the extent that the one time garnishment may accurately describe wages or other items that are owed by the employer/garnishee to the debtor, it is best to file an answer within 30 days paying those wages that were received, subject to the 25% maximum of disposable earnings. Only one answer must be filed when responding to a regular garnishment.


Garnishment may also be used to collect money that is due in a divorce proceeding for either alimony or child support. Occasionally, the Department of Human Resources Child Support Recovery Department will assist in the collection of child support. Garnishment is an effective remedy in collecting money owed under divorce related matters as 50% of an individual’s disposable earnings is subject to garnishment in divorce actions (compare this to 25% of disposable earnings in all other collection matters). It is important to closely scrutinize the affidavit which is served with a filing of continuing garnishment in an divorce of child support action. The divorce decree should be attached to the garnishment or sufficiently referenced in the affidavit in support of garnishment so that it easily allows the garnishee to determine whether a divorce action is involved. The calculation of disposable earnings will be the same as is described above. Once garnishment of wages for child support or alimony is commenced, it does not terminated after 179 days. It is the garnishee’s responsibility to answer the garnishment at intervals of no more than 45 days until the support or alimony is completely paid.


The Tax Commissioner or other authorized representative of a tax collecting agency, State or Federal, is entitled to serve a summons of garnishment against any person believed to be indebted to the defendant/tax debtor or who has property, money or effects in his hands belonging to the debtor. The process for responding as a garnishee is the same as continuing garnishment.


When a garnishment summons is received and the employee is no longer employed, an answer stating this must be filed within 45 days from initial receipt of service of the summons petition in the case of a continuing garnishment. Once this has been filed, assuming that the employee is not reinstated as an employee during the 179 day of the continuing garnishment, no additional answer is required. In the event that the employee does become re-employed during the 179 day period, an answer must be filed, even though several interim answers may not have been filed due to the termination of the employee.

There are two circumstances when the employee/judgment debtor may challenge the creditor’s garnishment affidavit and summons. The judgment debtor may challenge the existence of the underlying judgment and also may challenge the amount claimed due on the judgment. Even though the employee may file a traverse on these basis, it would not relieve the garnishee from filing an answer and paying the property subject to the garnishment into the court. In the event that the defendant is correct, the money that would have otherwise belonged to the defendant, will be paid by the court to the defendant/judgment debtor rather than the plaintiff.

Occasionally, a garnishee/employee will file an answer indicating that the employee/debtor no longer works there or paying a smaller portion into the court then the plaintiff believes is actually due. In either of these situations, the plaintiff has 15 days after service of the garnishee’s answer to file a traverse. If a traverse if filed, the court in which the garnishment is pending will set the matter down for hearing. This generally takes one to two months. The burden of proving that the garnishee actually is holding property subject to garnishment is upon the traversing creditor (the plaintiff). If no traverse is filed within 15 days after an answer, the plaintiff can file an application to condemn and receive all money paid into the court.


A subsection (e) of code section §18-4-20 (continuing garnishment) specifically contemplates the occasion when multiple garnishment summons will be filed against a single employee. Subsection (e) provides that the percentage of disposable earnings subject to garnishment will not increase regardless of the number of creditors seeking payment. This exception would not be the case if a garnishment for child support was filed. Up to 50% of the disposable earnings would be subject to garnishment in regard to a garnishment petition seeking to collect alimony or child support.

When more than one garnishment case is pending regarding a single employee, O.C.G.A.§18-4-96 provides the procedure that an employer should adhere to when paying money into the court. In essence, the burden is placed on the creditor to demonstrate that it has a superior claim to money paid into the court. From an employer’s perspective, there is an obligation to respond and pay the money subject to garnishment into the court. It is not the employer/garnishee’s responsibility to determine the priority of the competing claims. The code section referenced above specifically indicates that the money should be paid into the court and then it is up to the competing creditors to file a motion with the court seeking payment against the outstanding debt. If multiple garnishments are filed and are pending in multiple counties, the money subject to the garnishment should be paid to the court whose summons of garnishment was first received. The subsequent garnishment should be answered by indicating that the proceeds have already been paid to the court for the first received summons. This information should be set out in paragraph 6 of the answer of continuing garnishment. A copy of the first answer paying the money into the court should be attached to the subsequent answers. Only one payment should be made to the court. Once this has been done, no further burden is on the garnishee/employer to pay any additional money. Keep in mind, however, that an answer to each garnishment must be filed every 45 days.


The administrative costs associated with responding to garnishments can be substantial. O.C.G.A. §18-4-97 provides for a garnishee to recover actual reasonable costs in making a true answer of garnishment. In order to recover costs, the garnishee is entitled to deduct $25.00 or 10% of the amount paid into the court, whichever is greater, not to exceed $50.00 as reasonable attorney fees or expenses.

If there is a particular issue which causes the garnishee/employer to incur substantial attorney fees beyond the amount allowed under the code section, the garnishee may file a motion with the court asking for a hearing, but must obtain court order before paying the expenses. No deduction can be made from the portion paid into the court until after the motion has been ruled upon. For example, if an employee subject to garnishment had gross earnings of $500.00 per week and net earnings of $350.00 per week (after deduction for State and Federal withholding), 25% of $350.00 would be subject to garnishment. This would equal approximately $87.50. The amount deducted would be $25.00 or 10% of the amount paid into the court (in this case $8.75). The statute allows the employer to recover the greater of $25.00 or 10% of the amount paid into the court. The additional $25.00 deduction, in this example, should be added as an itemized amount in paragraph 3 of the answer to continuing garnishment. If an employee were earning enough such that over $500.00 would be paid into the court, 10% of that amount ($50.00) would be the maximum that could be deducted as expenses.

ˆ back to top