A creditor just called and said that they are initiating the legal process for garnishment. How long do I have until they garnish me?

I hear this a lot, and it’s usually a lie on the part of the creditor.

They might really want to garnish you, but the garnishment is generally not in place yet.

To garnish you, they have to have a judgment against you.  To have a judgment against you, they need to file a lawsuit against you.  So, unless the constable has served you with a lawsuit at the front door of your home, you probably haven’t been sued.  This means that they don’t have a judgment, and they cannot legally garnish you, yet.

Generally, it’s a bluff.  It doesn’t mean that they won’t start a lawsuit and eventually garnish you, but it takes some time.  For example, if I sued you today, I would serve you in a week, get a judgment in a month, file the garnishment paperwork, and garnish you in about 45 days.  That’s still 45 days away, and you have plenty of time to file bankruptcy in the mean-time to stop it.

On the other hand, if the creditor really does have a garnishment, they won’t be calling you.  They will contact your payroll and get it set up.  Hopefully your payroll department at work is friendly, and they will give you a head-up that your paycheck next Friday will be hit by a garnishment.  So long as we file bankruptcy before payroll processes that garnishment, we can still stop it.