Old debt with a new garnishment?
A number of people have asked how long a creditor can issue a garnishment on an old debt.
WHAT IS A GARNISHMENT?
A garnishment is a court order for a third party to turn over property that belongs to the debtor to the creditor.
What does that mean in English? Someone else is holding something that belongs to you, like for example a bank holds your money, or an employer holds wages that are owed to you. A court orders that the bank or the employer pays some or all of the money that is owed to you to the creditor.
But there is a requirement that the creditor have a judgment. A garnishment is a secondary proceeding or order after the judge lowers the hammer and says that you owe the money.
Once there is a judgment, the creditor is in control. They can do lots of things. They can request a garnishment to be issued by the court, or levy against assets, attach cars, houses. But they can attach wages or bank accounts.
The judgment has its own statute of limitations. A judgment in General District Court is good for 10 years, renewable for 10. If the judgment is recorded in Circuit Court, or originates in Circuit Court, it is good for 20 years.
But all this assumes that the judgment is valid.
How do you know if the judgment is valid? There are a number of issues,
1- Was the judgment served or did you get notice that it was pending? In Virginia, you do not need to be “served” by a process server, service is done by “nail and mail” service. They attach a copy to the front door of your last known address, and mail a copy, regular mail to your last known address.
2- Are you the named defendant? Did they sue you or someone with a similar name?
3- Was the debt within the statute of limitations?
4- Do you have a defense to the claim?
Only after you have reviewed all the factors, can you go back and attack a judgment.
What can you do with a garnishment?
There are 4 options with garnishments.
1- You can do nothing, and let the creditor collect their money through the garnishment.
2- You can try to negotiate with the creditor and either settle the debt or make payments that are better for you.
3- You can get the evidence that allows you to attack the underlying judgment, and “un-do” the judgment, and fight the debt.
4- You can always file Bankruptcy.
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Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Richmond, VA 23230