What is a Garnishment?

Definition: A garnishment is a legal requirement to allocate money, usually placed on wages, or property to a deserving third party based on a court order or legal action that has been taken by the third party. Garnishments are typically applied to earnings paid by an employer, in which the garnishment is directly withdrawn from the employees earnings, and remitted to the third party as designated by the court order.

What Does Garnishment Mean?

What is the definition of garnishment? There are a number of reasons why a court order from a judge may require an individual’s wages or property to be garnished. Most often, wage garnishments are required when an individual fails to repay a creditor, and the creditor is required to take legal action to force the individual to repay the debt.

Why are garnishments deducted from an employee’s wages? Assuming the legal action taken by the creditor results in a court order for a wage garnishment to be applied, the employer of the individual will be notified and the employer will directly withdrawal the required amount from the employee’s paycheck. Upon withdraw; the employer will remit the garnished wages directly to the creditor who obtained the court order.

Let’s look at an example.


There’s no doubt that things happen in life, and financial burdens can strain an individual’s ability to stay up to date with life expenses. Within the United States, divorce or separation can generate significant financial burdens on a spouse who doesn’t attain full custody of children. In many instances, the mother will attain custody of children, while the father will receive partial custody coupled with the requirement to pay the mother for child support. This expense can be a significant amount, often times based on the gross income of the father.

For purposes of our example, let’s assume the father falls behind on his child support payments and the mother determines her only action to re-coup lost financial support is through legal action. Assuming the judge of the legal proceeding agrees with the mother and finds that the father is truly behind on child support payments, the judge may order a court order to garnish the wages of the father in an effort to guarantee child support payments are received by the mother. In this case, the father’s employer would be notified of the garnishment and the payroll department of the employer would take appropriate action to ensure earnings are withheld and remitted to the mother.

Summary Definition

Define Wage Garnishments: Wage garnishment means an obligation to property to a third party stemming from legal action or a court order.