What is a Traverse for a Garnishment in Atlanta, Georgia?

Filing a traverse in response to a garnishment in Atlanta, means that you are denying the validity of a wage or bank garnishment. Unfortunately, it is difficult to file a successful traverse when your wages or bank account have been garnished. In order to understand the garnishment process, you must understand how a creditor obtains a judgment against a debtor in Georgia.

What is a “Judgment”?

In Georgia, a creditor who wishes to collect on a past due debt must file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against that debtor. A judgment is a court order issued by the judge that states the debtor owes the creditor a certain dollar amount.

The lawsuit starts with a complaint in court; in Atlanta, lawsuits for past due debt will be in county state courts, such as Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Cherokee, Clayton, and so on and so forth, depending on where the defendant or debtor lives. The creditor must first serve a copy of the lawsuit upon the debtor personally via a sheriff or marshall or a private process server. When the debtor receives the complaint, s/he must answer the complaint within 30 days of being served in order to avoid a default judgment or an automatic judgment in favor of the creditor.

If the debtor does answer the lawsuit, the answer preserves his/her right to continue defending himself in the lawsuit. During the time between the filing of the answer and the final trial before a judge or jury, the parties have opportunities to make requests to the court for final resolution without a trial, ask each other questions regarding the matter through “discovery,” and discuss settlement. If the debtor has no viable defenses to the lawsuit, then a judge will likely enter a judgment against the debtor.

What Does a Creditor do to Collect on a Judgment?

A creditor can do several things to collect money on a judgment, including: 1) file a bank garnishment on the debtor’s checking account; 2) file a wage garnishment on the debtor’s paycheck; 3) file a lien against debtor’s property; and 4) foreclose or levy on the debtor’s property.

It’s rare that a judgment creditor will foreclose or levy on property, but garnishments are a popular way of collecting a judgment in Georgia. Now that you have a brief overview of how a judgment is obtained, you will be able to understand what defenses you have to a garnishment.

Filing a Traverse to Dispute a Garnishment

So, the grounds for a traverse are: 1) the judgment is invalid or nonexistent; 2) you didn’t receive proper notice of the garnishment (certified mail within 3 days of the creditor serving notice to the bank or employer if the judgment is more than 60 days old); 3) the money in the bank account belongs to a joint accountholder against whom the creditor has no judgment; or, 4) the garnishment is taking money that cannot be garnished, such as social security income.

Most people do not have a good defense to a garnishment. And, where a judgment is invalid, a debtor must go backwards to the original lawsuit (a separate lawsuit from the garnishment) and ask the court to vacate or get rid of the judgment. Such efforts are often costly and may not be worth the time and money, depending on the amount of the judgment. Plus, the money that is being held by the employer or the bank must be sent into the court pending the dispute, which means you can’t keep your money anyway.

For people who know that they owe the debt and do not have the means to pay the debt, filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a good option for stopping a garnishment.

The best thing to do if you have a garnishment pending against you in Atlanta, Georgia is to consult with an Atlanta attorney. Call the Law Offices of Charles Clapp at 404.585.0040 for a free consultation.