Can the Collection Agency Really Garnish My Wages Without Going to Court? – Ellen

“Dear Steve,

I have a credit card debt that is going on three years. It has now been turned over to a collection agency wanting me to pay a huge amount to settle that I cannot afford, I offered monthly payments that I could afford, and now they say they are going to garnish my wages. Can that you done without going to court?


Dear Ellen,

No. Before a collection company could garnish your wages they would have to sue you, get a judgment and then get the court permission to garnish wages. Sounds like they are just trying to scare you into coughing up a bigger payment. Be sure not to promise a payment plan you can’t make. Making a promise to pay and then defaulting on it only makes things worse.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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8 thoughts on “Can the Collection Agency Really Garnish My Wages Without Going to Court? – Ellen”

  1. lets say a agency doesn’t have a court order and you where making payments with them and then they all of a sudden start a wage garnishment is this allowed?  Does the employer have to have a court order in order to do the garnishment or are they allowed to take the collection agency’s word for the garnishment?  

  2. i have a collection agency that garnished my wages even after i have done a direct loan consolidation which i am not in default in.  it seems they have forgetten to pick these up and now they will not release the garnish which puts me in an eviction status now

    • When you say you did a “direct loan consolidation” what do you mean exactly? Did you pay off the judgment or not? If you had a deal with the judgment creditor, were you making payments to them directly? Do you have anything in writing with them? If they are garnishing improperly you need to take action right away.

    • It varies from state to state, but assuming the debt is not secured by the personal property, there must be a judgment first before any asset seizure or sale. Some states allow this, some don’t. Also, it is the judgment creditor (the company that sued you) that requests/instructs the marshal/sheriff to take this action and there is always court oversight. That is, you can go to the court and seek relief (which the court may or may not grant). Thing to remember is if it is some collector who is merely threatening this without the ability or even intention of actually doing so (ie they don’t have a judgment or even intend to sue), this would be a FDCPA violation.

      • OMG I had a payday loan with Advance America which I thought was paid in full because they never explained their agreement and all of a sudden out of no where three years ago got letter at employers that they were garnishing my wages – no court action no court order. Was this completely illegal – they never went to court to get permission.

        My employer didn’t honor their request either. But was embarrassing.
        That was several years ago and I will never ever get one of those. They are nightmares and the people are horrible. No matter how desperate never resort to one.


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