Bankruptcy Chapter 7 & 13

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Wage Garnishment

Arizona law allows creditors who have obtained judgment to take up to one-fourth of your after-tax pay directly from your employer. A wage garnishment may continue until the debt, attorney's fees and court costs have been paid. If a creditor posts a bond with the court, it may garnish your bank accounts even before a judgment has been obtained.

Garnishment is stopped immediately when a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is filed. At the successful conclusion of the case, the court discharges, or cancels, your debt.

What stops garnishment?  See Protection from Creditors.

What if you had a prior bankruptcy within the last year?  See the Caution on the Protection from Creditors page.

What if you had a prior bankruptcy within the last 8 years?  See Who is Eligible.

How a Creditor Garnishes Wages in Arizona

Garnishment is a legal proceeding which allows a creditor to take money owed to you.  Usually the creditor takes money from your paycheck, but the creditor could garnish bank accounts, accounts receivable if you are in business, shares of stock in a corporation, or, almost anything else which is owed to you.

To be able to garnish wages or anything else, the creditor must obtain a judgment, and then serve garnishment papers on the person, such as your employer, that owes money to you.

Obtaining the Judgment. The general steps for a creditor to obtain a judgment in Arizona are:

  • File a lawsuit.  The creditor, who is called the "plaintiff" by the court, starts the suit by taking a document to the court clerk in which he complains that you have not paid your bill.  This document is called the "complaint."  [ARCP, Rule 3]
  • Serve the summons.  When the suit is filed, the court issues a summons which must be delivered to, or "served" on you.  It will tell you what you have to do to defend your self from the complaint.  In the court papers, you will be called the "defendant."  The summons is ordinarily be delivered in person, by a sheriff or his deputy, or by a person authorized by the court to deliver summons (a "private process server"), but may be served by mail with a return receipt if you are out of the state.  The summons will state the amount of time from the delivery of the summons--ordinarily twenty days from the date that the summons was delivered to you--that you have in which to file an answer with the court.   [ARCP, Rules 4, 4.1, 4.2; Rule 12(a)]
  • Apply for Default.  If you do not answer the complaint within the allowed time, the plaintiff creditor will apply to have you default (failure to answer) noted in the court record, and mail a copy to you if they know your mailing address.  The clerk of the court will enter the default on the court records ten days after the application was made. [ARCP, Rule 55(a)]
  • Obtain a Judgment. If the complaint is for a sum which can be calculated, the plaintiff creditor can ask the court to enter a judgment without a hearing or any further notice to you.  [ARCP, Rule 55(b), 5(a)]

Garnishment.  Once a creditor has a judgment, it may proceed to take money which is owed to you.  To do this, the creditor will:

  • Make demand for payment of the judgment.  If the creditor intends to garnish wages, the creditor must make an affidavit to the court that it has demanded payment for the amount due and that you have not agreed or continued to pay the non-exempt portion of your wages.  This demand is not necessary for the garnishment of property other than wages.  [ARS 12-1598.03, 12-1572]
  • Serve the garnishment on the employer or other party that owes you money.  When the creditor submits an application with the required affidavit, the court will issue a "Writ of Garnishment" which the creditor will deliver to your employer.  The creditor does not need to give you any notice before your employer is served, but must deliver a copy of the writ to you within three days after your employer creditor has been served.  [ARS 12-1598.04]
  • The creditor gets a continuing lien on your wages.  The Writ of Garnishment is a continuing lien on the nonexempt portion of your pay earnings from the date that it is served on your employer.  [ARS 12-1598.05.]

The Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP) may be accessed at  ACRP Rules links are to that site, and may require you to provide information to that site to obtain access.

Links to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) are to the web site of Arizona Legislative Computer Service of the Arizona State Legislature, ALIS Online.

This page was last revised: 02/18/09