Oftentimes for our clients, being awarded a judgment against a debtor is winning the battle with the war still ahead. This can understandably be infuriating for a client who knows the defendant owes them money, who had to go to court to have a judge agree that the defendant owes them money, and who still does not have their money back.
Luckily, there is a relatively painless way in many states, including the State of Texas, to exercise some leverage once you have your judgment, using something called a writ of garnishment. We will explain to you here how a writ of judgment can help a Texas creditor get their money back from a debtor in the paragraphs below.
What Is a Writ of Garnishment in Texas?
A writ of garnishment in Texas is an order coming from a court and aimed at a third party who isn’t the plaintiff/creditor or the defendant/debtor in a case. Instead, the order is for the third party and requires the third party to take action or refrain from doing something. The third party is usually an organization like a bank or credit union or another entity that the defendant has entrusted with the responsibility of holding onto the defendant’s assets.
The writ of garnishment orders the third party to surrender the defendant’s assets to the court in order to satisfy a judgment against the defendant. With a writ of garnishment in place, creditors such as banks and credit cards can pull directly from defendants’ bank accounts under Texas garnishment laws. And while the writ isn’t effective on paychecks, as soon as the paychecks are deposited, the deposited income becomes subject to the writ of garnishment.
Nearly any amount of money from any source in a bank account can be garnished. However, if a debtor is on a fixed income such as social security, at least two (2) months of the defendant’s monthly payments may be protected by the defendant’s bank from garnishment. Money in retirement accounts, unemployment income, and insurance proceeds from life, health, or accident insurance are also generally exempt from garnishment in Texas.
Texas Garnishment Laws
The process for applying for and effectuating a writ to garnish a bank account in Texas is governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 658, Application for Writ of Garnishment and Order, states that a plaintiff may file an application for a writ of garnishment of a bank account in Texas “[e]ither at the commencement of a [law]suit or at any time during its progress.” Tex.R.Civ.P. 658. The application should be supported by affidavits (sworn statements) of the plaintiff or a representative of the plaintiff with knowledge of the facts relevant to the application and should only include those facts that would be admissible as evidence in a court proceeding.
The court must review the application seeking judgment garnishment on a bank account and establish a record including findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the court’s decision to grant the writ.
Under Rule 658, the court must specify “the maximum value of property or indebtedness that may be garnished” from the plaintiff, leaving nothing to guesswork. The court also issues provisions for a bond that the plaintiff pays into if the writ of garnishment was wrongfully issued and the defendant/debtor is entitled to repayment. Tex.R.Civ.P.658a.
Can Creditors Stop a Writ of Garnishment?
A creditor can stop a writ of garnishment by essentially asking the court to dismiss it.
Ideally, experts advise defendants to try to reach out to a creditor before the writ of garnishment judgment is issued because once it’s issued, the process is moving forward, and the creditor has what it needs to take the defendant’s money with the full power of the court behind it. In fact, once a garnishment is in place, there is very little incentive for a creditor to take less than what is owed and/or take payments at a rate lower than what they will get from the garnishment.
What Do You Need for a Judgment Garnishment of a Bank Account?
In order to apply for a writ of garnishment, the plaintiff/creditor needs specific information about the debtor, namely the debtor’s bank, the proper name on the bank account(s), and, if possible, the account number(s). This information is often not very difficult to obtain, mainly if the defendant formerly made payments on a debt using the same bank account and paid by check.
Some defendants will close old bank accounts and open new ones, as well as cancel or alter direct deposits of paychecks in order to slow the process down and make their assets harder to discover.
How Long Does It Take to Garnish a Bank Account?
The writ of garnishment process usually takes several months, from application to the court through execution of the writ and garnishing of monetary assets from a bank or credit union. This very likely means that a defendant/debtor’s bank account could be frozen for several months, causing a cascade of other challenges in the defendant’s day-to-day affairs. Again, some defendants will cancel or alter direct deposit of paychecks, change accounts for automatic drafts, and even pay with cash where possible in an attempt to protect their money and avoid additional complications stemming from the writ of garnishment.
The Law Offices of Kretzer & Volderbing P.C. Can Help You Collect Your Judgment
When you are trying to figure out how to navigate the writ of garnishment process, you will need lawyers with specific experience on writs in Texas and who have the proper knowledge and resources to help you. Contact attorney Seth Kretzer today through our website or by phone at 713-775-3050 to discuss your concerns.
We are on your side, and we know exactly what to do to help guide you. Additionally, we have worked on countless Texas cases involving writs of garnishment for more than thirty years. We truly understand your situation, and we will do everything in our power to help you!