Garnishment – Tennessee law
Tennessee Code (TC) – Title 26 | Chapter 2 | Part 2
TC 26-2-201 to 224
As of January 5, 2009
Source: Michie’s Legal Services
Part 2 – Garnishment
- Section 1 (TC 26-2-201) Definitions.
As used in this part:
(1) “Clerk” means a clerk of a court of general sessions, the courts of record or any other courts duly established under the laws of Tennessee.
(2) “Court” means the court of general sessions, the courts of record or any other courts duly established under the law of Tennessee.
(3) “Property, debts, and effects” includes real estate and choses in action, whether due or not, and judgments before a court; also money or stocks in an incorporated company.
- Section 2 (TC 26-2-202) Property, debts and effects liable to satisfy judgment.
All property, debts and effects of the defendant in the possession or under the control of the garnishee shall be liable to satisfy the plaintiff’s judgment, from the service of the notice, or from the time they came into the plaintiff’s hands, if acquired subsequent to the service of notice, and before judgment.
- Section 3 (TC 26-2-203) Summons of garnishee.
(a) The officer may summon, in writing, any person as garnishee, to appear at the court from which the execution is issued, or before any other court to whom the execution is returnable, as the case may be and answer the garnishment, at a time set by the clerk of the court not less than ten (10) business days after date of issuance, except that such ten-day requirement shall not apply when the execution was issued from a court and either the officer or the clerk of the court shall set the time when such garnishee shall appear.
(b) The summons to the garnishee shall notify the garnishee as follows:
NOTICE — Although you have a longer time in which to answer the court concerning this garnishment, you must do the following on the same day you receive the garnishment, or on the next working day. Determine if you possess or control money or property of the judgment debtor. If so, within that same time period, you shall furnish a copy of the garnishment summons and Notice to Judgment Debtor by mailing them first class, postage prepaid, to the judgment debtor’s last known address as shown by your records, or by actual delivery to the judgment debtor. If the address shown by your records differs from that shown at the bottom of the Notice to Judgment Debtor, you shall also mail a copy of the garnishment and notice to the latter address.
(c) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “business day” means any day other than a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday, or a day when the clerk’s office is closed.
- Section 4 (TC 26-2-204) Examination of garnishee Answer.
(a) The garnishee may be required to answer under oath:
(1) Whether such garnishee is, or was at the time of the garnishment, indebted to the defendant; if so, how and to what amount;
(2) Whether such garnishee had in possession or under such garnishee’s control any property, debts, or effects belonging to the defendant, at the time of serving the notice, or has at the time of answering, or has had at any time between the date of service and the time of answering; if so the kind and amount;
(3) Whether there are, to such garnishee’s knowledge and belief, any and what property, debts, and effects in the possession or under control of any other, and what, person;
(4) Such other questions appearing on or attached to the original execution put to the garnishee by the court of the judgment creditor as may tend to elicit the information sought.
(b) The garnishee may appear and make an answer initially either in person or by filing a written answer.
- Section 5 (TC 26-2-205) Garnishee’s answer Effect.
The answer of the garnishee is not conclusive.
- Section 6 (TC 26-2-206) Execution awarded for property in garnishee’s hands.
If, upon the answer and the examination of the garnishee, it appears that the garnishee has property, debts, or effects in the garnishee’s hands or under the garnishee’s control, liable for the plaintiff’s debt, judgment may be entered, and execution awarded for the property, money, or effects, as the case may be, or so much thereof as will be sufficient to satisfy the plaintiff’s debt and costs and all charges incident to the proceedings.
- Section 7 (TC 26-2-207) Notice to other persons holding defendant’s property.
So, also, if the garnishee’s examination shows that any property, debts, or effects of the defendant are probably in the hands of other persons, the court shall, on the application of the plaintiff, issue notice to such persons to come forward and answer as garnishees, and the same proceedings may be had as in other cases.
- Section 8 (TC 26-2-208) Delivery of garnisheed property Judgment for nondelivery.
As soon as the property is declared to be the property of the defendant, under the provisions of §§ 26-2-206 and 26-2-207, it shall be delivered up to the officer serving the garnishment, on demand. On failure to deliver such property, and a return made on the execution of that fact, judgment shall be entered immediately against the garnishee, for the debt and costs.
- Section 9 (TC 26-2-209) Failure to appear or answer.
The date garnishee’s answer is received by the court clerk shall be noted on the docket book in the proper manner, whether or not the answer discloses any property subject to garnishment. If the garnishee fails to appear or answer, a conditional judgment may be entered against the garnishee for the plaintiff’s debt, upon which a notice shall issue to the garnishee returnable at such time as the court may require, to show cause why judgment final should not be rendered against the garnishee. On failure of the garnishee to appear and show cause, the conditional judgment shall be made final, and execution awarded for the plaintiff’s entire debt and costs.
- Section 10 (TC 26-2-210) Levy of execution on land.
If an execution is issued by a court that is not a court of record and a levy is made upon land or an interest in land, then the execution and other papers in connection therewith shall be returned to the circuit court of the county for condemnation as in other cases of the levy of a court’s execution on land.
- Section 11 (TC 26-2-211) Execution stayed until choses in action become due.
Execution of the garnishment judgment may be stayed until the choses in action fall due, and the court may order them to be collected, or if necessary, sold, as may be deemed just and proper.
- Section 12 (TC 26-2-212) Certificate given to garnishee stating date and amount of judgment.
The garnishee against whom judgment has been rendered is entitled to a certificate from the clerk stating the date and amount of the garnishment judgment, in whose favor and in what case rendered. Such certificate shall have all the force and effect of a receipt against the original debt, and entitle the garnishee to a credit to the amount thereof on the original judgment, or on the execution if already issued, to be entered by the officer.
- Section 13 (TC 26-2-213) Lien upon debts due and payable in future.
If upon disclosure made on oath by the debtor it appears that the garnishee is indebted to the defendant, but that the debt is not payable and will not become due until some future time, then such judgment as the plaintiff may recover shall constitute a lien upon the debt until and at the time it becomes due and payable.
- Section 14 (TC 26-2-214) Garnishment of compensation due from employer.
(a) Upon the garnishment of salaries, wages or other compensation due from the employer garnishee, the garnishee shall:
(1) Pay the judgment debtor the amount of such debtor’s exempt salaries, wages or other compensation;
(2) Submit as a part of the judgment debtor’s answer to the garnishment a statement of the judgment debtor’s dependent children under sixteen (16) years of age who are residents of this state; and
(3) Furnish the judgment debtor with a copy of the garnishment summons containing the notice of the judgment debtor’s right to the exemptions from wage garnishment specified in federal law and in §§ 26-2-106 and 26-2-107, of the right to apply to the court for an order staying further garnishment proceedings and allowing the judgment debtor to pay the judgment in installments and of procedures the judgment debtor can follow to contest the garnishment.
(1) To the extent of the amount due upon the judgment and costs, the employer garnishee shall hold, subject to the order of the court, any non-exempt wages due or which subsequently become due. The judgment or balance due thereon is a lien on salaries, wages, or other compensation due at the time of the service of the execution. Such lien shall continue as to subsequent earnings until the total amount due upon the judgment and costs is paid or satisfied, or until the expiration of the employer’s payroll period immediately prior to six (6) calendar months after service of the execution, whichever occurs first. Such lien on subsequent earnings shall terminate sooner if the employment relationship is terminated or if the underlying judgment is vacated or modified.
(2) A lien obtained hereunder shall have priority over any subsequent liens obtained hereunder.
- Section 15 (TC 26-2-215) Employer to remit withheld moneys to court.
The employer garnishee shall remit to the court all moneys withheld as provided under § 26-2-214 not less than one (1) time each calendar thirty (30) days.
- Section 16 (TC 26-2-216) Installment payments to obtain stay of garnishment Service of garnishment summons.
(1) After any judgment has been rendered in any court and the time to appeal therefrom has elapsed without such an appeal having been made, the judge of the court which rendered the judgment may, either before or after the issuance and service of garnishment, upon written consent of the parties or upon written motion of the judgment debtor, after due notice and after full hearing of such motion, enter an order requiring such judgment debtor to pay to the clerk of the court a certain sum of money weekly, biweekly or monthly to apply upon such judgment. The filing of such motion by the debtor shall stay the issuance, execution or return of any writ of garnishment against wages or salary due the judgment debtor or any other funds belonging to the judgment debtor sought to be substituted to the satisfaction or payment of or upon such judgment during the period that such judgment debtor complies with the order of the court. Such motion of the judgment debtor shall be supported by an affidavit stating the debtor’s inability to pay such debt with funds other than those earned by the debtor as wages or salary, or received from other sources in such amounts as to necessitate or make equitable installment payments, the name and address of the debtor’s employer, or other source of funds and amount of such wages or salary, and the date of payment thereof.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a)(1), upon written consent of the parties, the hearing of the judgment debtor’s motion to pay the judgment in installments may be held on the same date that such judgment is entered.
(3) The judgment debtor may file only one (1) motion to establish payments for each judgment; however, if the motion is denied, or the order establishing payments is not complied with, at the court’s discretion for good cause shown, the stay order may be reinstated as provided in § 26-2-217, with the reinstated stay order to affect only pay periods subsequent to the reinstatement.
(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a)(1), the filing of a motion by a judgment debtor who has admitted the debt and is paying the judgment by agreed installment payments shall not stay the issuance, execution or return of any writ of garnishment against wages or salary due the judgment debtor or any satisfaction or payment of or upon such judgment.
(1) It is the duty of the sheriff or other officer serving the garnishment summons upon the employer garnishee to:
(A) Obtain a receipt acknowledging service of such summons signed by the employer garnishee, if a person, or signed by an officer, managing agent or designated agent for service of the employer garnishee, if a corporation, company or business entity; or
(B) Sign and return to the court a sworn statement to the effect that the summons was duly served but such employer garnishee or such officer, managing agent or designated agent of the employer garnishee refused to sign a receipt acknowledging service; and
(C) The garnishment summons served by the sheriff shall have attached a notice to the employer that the employer is required to withhold the garnishment amount from the employee’s wages, that the employer is required to pay these moneys to the court, and that the employer is liable for failure to withhold from the garnishee’s wages and for failure to pay these moneys to the court.
(2) The sheriff or other officer shall serve three (3) copies of the garnishment summons upon the employer garnishee, all of which shall contain a conspicuously typed or printed notice which shall read as follows:
NOTICE OF JUDGMENT DEBTOR (AND NOTICE TO GARNISHEE)
NOTICE TO THE DEBTOR (EMPLOYEE):
Your earnings have been subjected to a garnishment which has been served upon your employer. The garnishment creates a lien on a portion of your wages until the judgment is satisfied, or
for three (3) months, whichever occurs first. You have the following rights:
Some of your wages are protected by state and federal law from garnishment. See the notice below to
the employer to find out how much of your wages are protected from garnishment.
IF YOUR EMPLOYER IS TAKING TOO MUCH MONEY FROM YOUR WAGES:
You may apply to the court at the clerk’s office shown below within twenty (20) days from any improper withholding of your wages for a motion to stop the garnishment. The court clerk identified below shall provide you with a form for making such a motion, or may have supplied a form motion on the back of this notice. You may wish to seek the counsel of a lawyer. If you are unable to afford an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal services to assist you.
PLEASE NOTE: If you file a motion, the court must hear and decide your motion promptly, and in no event later than fourteen (14) days from filing. The clerk will notify you of the time, date, and place of hearing. The court clerk’s office can provide you with forms and with information about legal services in your area, but the clerk cannot give you legal advice.
IF THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF MONEY IS BEING TAKEN FROM YOUR WAGES BUT YOU WANT TO GET THE GARNISHMENT STOPPED THROUGH A PAYMENT PLAN:
You may apply to the court for an order suspending further garnishments by the same creditor upon your paying a certain sum of money weekly, biweekly, or monthly, to pay the judgment. If you file this motion, the garnishment of your wages will stop for as long as you make the payments ordered by the court. The court clerk shall provide you with the necessary forms to make this application, or you may seek the counsel of an attorney. If you are unable to afford an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal services to assist you.
NOTICE TO THE GARNISHEE (EMPLOYER): THE MAXIMUM PART OF THE AGGREGATE DISPOSABLE EARNINGS OF AN INDIVIDUAL FORANY WORK WEEK WHICH IS SUBJECTED TO GARNISHMENT MAY NOT EXCEED:
(A) Twenty-five percent (25%) of the garnishee’s disposable earnings for that week, minus two dollars and fifty cents ($2.50) for each of the garnishee’s dependent children under sixteen (16) years of age who resides in the state of Tennessee as provided in § 26-2-107; or
(B) The amount by which the garnishee’s disposable earnings for that week exceed thirty (30) times the federal minimum hourly wage at the time the earnings for any pay period become due and payable, minus two dollars and fifty cents ($2.50) for each of the garnishee’s dependent children under sixteen (16) years of age who resides in the state of Tennessee, whichever is less.
“Disposable earnings” means that part of the earnings of an individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amounts required by law to be withheld. In the case of earnings for a pay period other than a week, the weekly formula must be changed to apply to that pay period so as to exempt an equivalent percentage of disposable earnings. For example, the calculation concerning the federal minimum wage in subsection (b) should be computed as follows:
WEEKLY: 30 times the Federal Minimum Hourly Wage (FMHW) at the time the earnings for any pay period become due and payable;
BI-WEEKLY: two (2) times thirty (30) Federal Minimum Hourly Wage ;
SEMI-MONTHLY: two and one-sixth (2 1/6) times thirty (30) FMHW; and
MONTHLY: four and one-third (4O) times thirty (30) FMHW
equals the amount to be subtracted from disposable earnings for that pay period. If the judgment orders alimony and the person in whose favor the judgment was rendered has remarried, the above exemption applies. If the judgment orders the debtor to pay support for the debtor’s minor child or children, or alimony and the person in whose favor the alimony judgment was rendered has not remarried, different standards apply under 15 U.S.C. § 1672(b). If the debtor is supporting a spouse or dependent child other than those for whom the order was entered, then fifty percent (50%) of the debtor’s disposable earnings may be garnished. If the debtor is not supporting such additional dependents, a maximum of sixty percent (60%) may be garnished. These figures rise to fifty-five percent (55%) and sixty-five percent (65%), respectively, if the support order is for a period more than twelve (12) weeks before the pay period to be garnished. If the judgment is for state or federal taxes, no disposable earnings are exempt under 15 U.S.C. § 1673(b).
- Section 17 (TC 26-2-217) Payments Records Delinquency Notice of balance or of satisfaction.
(a) The clerk shall keep a record in such cause of all payments to and disbursements by the clerk.
(1) Upon failure of such judgment debtor to comply with such order, the clerk shall make notation thereof on the record in such cause, and thereupon the stay of execution by garnishment shall immediately and without further act by any party become null and void;
(2) The judge in whose court judgment was rendered may, upon proper showing by affidavit of the judgment debtor and after full hearing thereof, reinstate the order and stay of garnishment, or may amend the order so as to alter the terms and the amount of payment, if it shall appear that such default was due to the lack of employment or other justifiable cause beyond the control of the judgment debtor.
(1) In any case in which a garnishment has been answered by an employer garnishee and while the lien of garnishment created thereby is in effect the underlying judgment is paid in full or otherwise satisfied of record in the clerk’s office, it shall be the duty of the court clerk promptly to notify the garnishee of the satisfaction of the judgment and the expiration of the lien of garnishment;
(2) The judgment creditor shall notify the court clerk of the balance due upon a judgment whenever the creditor causes the issuance or revival of a garnishment thereon. Furthermore, the judgment creditor shall notify the court clerk when the judgment has been satisfied.
- Section 18 (TC 26-2-218) Written agreement for installment payments.
A written agreement for the payment of a judgment in installments, signed by the parties, their attorneys, or authorized agents acting in their behalf, and filed with the clerk of the court, shall have the same force and effect as an order made by the judge to stay the issuance, execution or return of any writ of garnishment against wages or salary due the judgment debtor during the period that such judgment debtor complies with the agreement.
- Section 19 (TC 26-2-219) Failure to comply with agreement.
(a) Should the judgment debtor fail to strictly comply with the terms of an agreement as provided by § 26-2-218, the stay of execution by garnishment shall immediately become null and void.
(b) Upon the stay of execution by garnishment becoming void and the issuance and service of garnishment having taken place prior to the proceeding to obtain a stay of garnishment, the lien on wages provided by this section shall have priority over all liens executed subsequent to the original date of issuance.
- Section 20 (TC 26-2-220) Applicability of provisions for garnishment on attachments.
The provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated in regard to garnishment on attachments also regulate proceedings under this part whenever applicable.
- Section 21 (TC 26-2-221) Garnishment of compensation due from state Amount exempted.
Garnishment of salaries, wages or other compensation due from the state, or from any county or municipality, to any officer or employee thereof, is permissible. Garnishment of compensation due from the state to contractors or vendors of the state is permissible. No such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor may validly claim any privilege or immunity in that regard. Such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor shall be entitled to an exemption of the amount of wages, salary, or compensation so due as is exempt from levy or garnishment in favor of officers, employees, contractors, or vendors of private corporations in like circumstances. However, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, nothing set forth in this section shall be construed to apply to or to allow garnishments of state compensation to contractors or vendors of the state where the state determines that payment of such garnishment would result in an interruption of essential state services.
- Section 22 (TC 26-2-222) Garnishment procedure for state officers or employees.
(a) In case of garnishment of officers, employees, contractors, or vendors of the state, garnishment notice may issue from any court or any court of record and shall be served upon the commissioner of that department in which such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor shall be engaged, or with which the garnishee is connected. The date of service shall be the date upon which service upon the commissioner has been accomplished. If such garnishment is not served as set forth above, such service shall be considered ineffective, and the state shall not be liable for any sums due thereunder. Such commissioner, or the commissioner’s designee, is directed to make answer to such garnishment notice or summons, stating the compensation, if any, due any state officer, employee, contractor, or vendor so garnisheed. Such commissioner is directed to withhold any amounts then due the state officer, employee, contractor, or vendor up to and including the amount of the judgment and costs on which the garnishment proceedings were predicated, until the garnishment is released by the issuing court or such funds are paid into that court, as provided by law, and is directed to pay to such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor any amount or sum which may be due such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor above the amount of such judgment and costs, or if applicable, above the amount of each periodic payment made from successive pay periods.
(b) In addition to the amount of the disposable earnings subject to garnishment, the state department of finance and administration shall be entitled to retain an administrative fee of five dollars ($5.00) due from the judgment debtor at the time of each payment made to the court as a result of the garnishment. The five dollar ($5.00) fee will be retained from the balance of the judgment debtor’s earnings remaining after deducting the payment made to the garnishing court. If the maximum garnishable amount has been reached prior to retaining the five dollar ($5.00) fee, then such amount due shall remain owing to the state until paid.
(c) The time at which the garnishment lien attaches to the amounts due the state officer, employee, contractor, or vendor shall be seven (7) business days from the date of service of the garnishment.
(d) If the commissioner in the department in which the officer, employee, contractor, or vendor works, or the commissioner’s duly authorized agent or attorney, fails to appear and answer such garnishment, it shall be presumed that the state is indebted to the officer, employee, contractor, or vendor to the full amount of the judgment creditor’s demand, and thereupon a conditional judgment may be entered against the state for the judgment to the extent of the garnishable funds paid out by the state which were due the debtor during the period the garnishment was effective.
(e) After the entry of such conditional judgment a scire facias shall issue to the commissioner of the department in which the garnisheed officer, employee, contractor, or vendor works, returnable to the next term of the court or to a day and place fixed by the court, to show cause why final judgment should not be entered against the state.
(f) Upon the return of such scire facias, fully served upon the commissioner of the department in which the garnisheed officer, employee, contractor, or vendor works, and upon the failure of the state to appear and show cause, the conditional judgment against the state shall be made final. In such event, the commissioner is directed to pay any such judgment and deduct the amount thereof from wages, salaries, or other compensation owing to such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor garnisheed under this part. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in any case in which judgment is obtained under the provisions of this section, if there is no compensation due such officer, employee, contractor, or vendor so garnisheed during the period such garnishment was effective, such judgment against the state shall be void and unenforceable.
(g) Any process required to be served under this section may be served, pursuant to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, by a private process server.
- Section 23 (TC 26-2-223) No wages due garnisheed employee Judgment null and void.
In any case where judgment is obtained under the provisions of §§ 26-2-205 — 26-2-208, if there are no wages due such employee so garnished, such judgment shall be void and unenforceable.
- Section 24 (TC 26-2-224) Time for execution when multiple writs exist.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law or rule to the contrary, a writ of garnishment that is filed later in time than another such writ, and which deducts the maximum amount allowable by law from the debtor’s wages, shall not run concurrently with the earlier filed writ with regard to the six-month time limit prescribed in § 26-2-214. Such later filed writ of garnishment shall not begin to run until the earlier filed writ’s judgment has been satisfied, such earlier filed writ has expired, or such earlier filed writ has been stayed by installment motion as prescribed in § 26-2-216.
(b) The time limit prescribed in § 26-2-214 shall not be extended beyond six (6) months from the date of filing if the garnishee has failed to answer or remit funds for such later filed writ.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the date of attachment or the status of any underlying statutory or common law lien rights of any later filed writ of garnishment.
Related standard court forms:
Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts – Trial Court Forms