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How to Pay off a Garnishment

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedMay 14, 2024

I have recently been served a garnishment for an unpaid credit card bill. May I just go to court and pay the judgment?

I was recently served a garnishment for an unpaid credit card bill. I have the money to pay the balance. Can I just go to the court and pay the judgment and have the garnishment released?

In most states, you would not pay the judgment at the court; rather, you would contact the attorney representing the judgment creditor (the credit card company that sued you) to obtain a payoff amount, and then pay to the attorney directly.

Once the attorney receives your payment and the funds clear the bank, he would file a document called a "satisfaction of judgment" with the court clerk of the court in which the original lawsuit was filed. This filing will put the court clerk on notice that the judgment has been paid and should be marked as "satisfied" in the court records.

The attorney for the judgment creditor would also need to contact your employer to let your employer know that the judgment has been paid and that the garnishment should be canceled. This process can take a bit of time, so if your paycheck is scheduled to be garnished during your next pay period, you may not be able to stop the garnishment in time, even if you pay the judgment. However, your employer should hold the funds for a certain period of time, the length of which varies from state to state, and your employer should return that money to you once it receives notice of the satisfaction of the judgment.

When you contact the creditor’s attorney to obtain a payoff amount, you should not be surprised if the amount he asks you to pay is slightly more than the actual judgment balance entered by the court. Creditors are usually allowed to charge interest on judgments (the interest rate varies by state), as well as attorney’s fees and processing costs.

Get it in writing

Before you render payment, you may want to obtain a written statement from the creditorÂ’s attorney to confirm that the amount he has asked you to pay will satisfy the judgment. You should also request a copy of the satisfaction of judgment for your records once payment is made. These documents will serve as your evidence if there is ever any question that you paid the judgment.

In some states, the debtor is required to file a copy of the satisfaction of judgment with the court clerk's office, so you may want to call the court clerkÂ’s office prior to making payment to ask about your stateÂ’s procedures for satisfying judgments. Once you have a copy of the satisfaction of judgment, you can take a copy to your employer to make sure that the garnishment is stopped, though, as I mentioned above, the creditor's attorney should notify your employer if you ask him to do so.

Lump-sum settlement

A final issue to consider is that you may be able to settle this judgment for less than the full amount owed, if the judgment creditor is willing to agree to a reduced-balance settlement. If you are interested in settling the judgment, you would need to contact the creditorÂ’s attorney to ask if settlement is a possibility and to make a settlement offer. Some creditors are not willing to settle on judgments, but it certainly cannot hurt to ask. Settlements on judgments are usually higher than those on non-judgment accounts, but you may be able to settle this judgment for 60% to 70% of the balance owed, or possibly less.

If the creditor agrees to a settlement, the steps to pay the settlement and to obtain a satisfaction of judgment would be the same as those I outlined above. To learn more about debt negotiation, I encourage you to visit the Debt Negotiation page.

Since you have the money to pay off this judgment, resolving it and stopping the garnishment should not be difficult, but again you need to make sure that you have good documentation of any agreement you reach with the creditor so that you can prove to the court and your employer that the judgment has been paid in case there is any question.

I wish you the best of luck in resolving this debt, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.



Debt statistics

If you are struggling with debt, you are not alone. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Quarter Q4 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Student loan debt was $1.601 trillion and credit card debt was $1.129 trillion.

According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, about 26% of people in the US have some kind of debt in collections. The median debt in collections is $1,739. Student loans and auto loans are common types of debt. Of people holding student debt, approximately 10% had student loans in collections. The national Auto/Retail debt delinquency rate was 4%.

The amount of debt and debt in collections vary by state. For example, in Connecticut, 22% have any kind of debt in collections and the median debt in collections is $1427. Medical debt is common and 10% have that in collections. The median medical debt in collections is $490.

While many households can comfortably pay off their debt, it is clear that many people are struggling with debt. Make sure that you analyze your situation and find the best debt payoff solutions to match your situation.



CChristina, Sep, 2011
I received a summons and complaint 6/1/11 (with no court date provided)(debt is 517.50). I submitted my answer 6/17/11 (filed with the court and mailed to the company's lawyer who's sueing me). But, then received a judgment (6/29/11)(debt is now 885.96 w/court fees etc.) stating that I didn't respond to the complaint. I've called them several times, and I've left messages everytime saying "I want to pay the debt in full, call me back" and haven't got any calls back. My wages are now being garnished (first check 9/9/11), without having received any notice of this! I thought that at the very least my employer was suppose to give me notice of the garnishment. I decided to call the lawyer yet another time to see what we could work out, and WOW he actually answered (which is weird considering EVERY other time he didn't!) I asked him how much the balance was now and he said something like 1,036.00. So, appauld at the fact the now a 500$ debt has accrued more then itself in fees, I asked how to get it to go away and he said to pay the balance in full. I said I'll get it figured out w/out all the added fees, even though I don't know how to do that!!! So, one question is, if I pay it in full does that mean the whole 1,036.00 or does it mean the initial debt of 517.50? Another is, can I get the default judgment vacated because not getting proper notice of garnishment? Thanks ahead for the response. (I live in Kent, Washington by the way, if that matters)
BBill, Sep, 2011
What is the amount of the judgment? If it is $1,036, then that is the amount the court said the judgment-creditor can collect. However, if you have a lump-sum handy of, let us say $500, then call the lawyer and tell him or her you will wire over the $500 immediately if he or she agrees to cease the garnishment.

Consult with a Washington lawyer who has civil litigation experience to learn if plaintiff followed all of Washington's civil procedure rules to the letter.
KKatie, Aug, 2011
I was about to have my wages garnished but i paid in full to the creditor. I paid them about 2 weeks ago and still have not received the copy of the satisfaction of judgment from them. I have called them several times and left messages. She keeps telling me to call back the following day. How should I handle this??
BBill, Aug, 2011
Contact the court that issued the judgment. In most jurisdictions, the creditor is required to file a satisfaction of judgment. If you can't get the court or the court clerk to direct you, you should consult with an attorney.

If you are able to determine that the creditor is indeed required to file a satisfaction of judgment in your state, impress upon the creditor's representative that you will take legal action, if the matter is not resolved. Only say this if you are prepared to take legal action.
LLisa, Jun, 2011
I have been garished for a debt owed by my ex from 1995 and they have been taking out money out of my check since dec 2010. I went to court today 6/14/11 with copies of divorce, statements, and papers from 1995 and up, was in court 2 min and Judge Funke would not even hear my case as it is almost paid for. I wanted my money back and he would not even hear the case. I received another garnishment for my school loans and that is my bill but how many freaking garnishments can they take from your check. I am a single parent with an ex that owes me thousand, thousands of dollars. What do i need to do?
BBill, Jun, 2011
Consult with an attorney who can advise you whether you have a legitimate claim to recover the money you paid via garnishment for a debt that sounds like should never have been your responsibility to pay. If you can't afford an attorney, contact your county bar association and ask for the name of the local organization that provides free or low-cost services to low- and no-income people in your area. This is sometimes call pro bono work. Make an appointment with that organization, and bring all of the letters and documentation regarding this debt and judgment to your meeting. An attorney or paralegal will give you advice according to your exact situation and state law.

The total amount that can be garnished depends on your state of residence, although federal caps apply for most kinds of debt.
llaurie, Apr, 2011
how many garnishments can be taken out of my pay check at one time?
BBill, Apr, 2011
Simple question without a simple answer. In theory, many garnishments can occur simultaneously. Federal and state law limit the amount that can be garnished. In general, federal law limits the maximum to 25% for judgment-creditors. However, states are free to limit that, and many do for people who earn less that 30 times the federal minimum wage, for example. Also, some federal agencies can ignore the federal rules and garnish 15% regardless of any existing garnishments. The IRS has the greatest power to garnish and can leave a person with only enough to cover 'allowable living expenses' as the IRS defines them.
BBill, Feb, 2009
Thanks Derrick.
DDerrick D., Feb, 2009
The information you provided was outstanding. I didn't have to go fishing on another website for further info and understanding.You nailed the subject for me.