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Understanding Garnishment in South Carolina

When a debtor owes money to a creditor, there are a number of different methods that a creditor can use to collect debt that is owed. One of the remedies that is commonly available to creditors to whom debt is owed is garnishment. However, it is important for creditors in South Carolina to know that wage garnishment is extremely limited when it comes to collecting debts that were incurred in South Carolina. While there are some circumstances in which wage garnishment may be available, it is typically not an available remedy for debt incurred in the state. However, there are other types of garnishment that may be available to creditors in South Carolina.

What is Garnishment?

According to the Cornell Legal Information Institute (LII), a garnishment is an order issued by a court after a plaintiff has successfully won a civil claim against a defendant for monetary damages. The garnishment order “instructs a third-party who owes money to the defendant to pay some or all of that money to the plaintiff instead of the defendant.”

Wage garnishment is the most common form of garnishment. In a wage garnishment situation, the garnishment order instructs the employer (the third party here, also known as the “garnishee”) to withhold wages that it would pay to the employee (the defendant or debtor in the case), and to give those wages or a percentage of them to the plaintiff (or the creditor).

Creditors Can Only Get Wage Garnishments in Certain Situations in South Carolina

Under South Carolina law, wage garnishment generally is prohibited as a way for creditors to collect on consumer debts. South Carolina is one of only a small handful of states that prohibits wage garnishment for consumer debts. In other words, a creditor cannot recoup money that a debtor owes by obtaining a wage garnishment order for debts incurred in South Carolina. There are only a few exceptions:

  • Consumer owes money to the federal government (such as unpaid taxes or federal student loans);
  • Consumer owes child support or alimony; or
  • Consumer incurred the debt in another state that widely permits wage garnishment for consumer debt and the consumer now lives in South Carolina.

If you are a private creditor, it is unlikely that you will be able to garnish wages in order to obtain payment for debts that you are owed. For example, wage garnishment is not possible in South Carolina for credit card debt, medical debt, and other related types of consumer debt. Federal government creditors that are allowed to garnish wages must obtain a court judgment in order to do so.

Options Beyond Wage Garnishment for Seeking Payment of Debt

Even if you are a creditor that cannot garnish wages under South Carolina law, there are other options available for seeking repayment of debt. South Carolina, for instance, has several grounds for attachment. While a creditor cannot garnish or attach wages, it may be able to attach—or freeze—bank accounts and other assets in order to recover money owed.

However, attachment is only possible once the creditor seeks and obtains a judgment against the debtor.

Contact a Creditors’ Rights Lawyer in Columbia, SC

If you have questions about collecting debt through attachment, a creditors’ rights attorney in Columbia can help. Contact Crawford & von Keller, LLC for more information about the services we provide to creditors in South Carolina.


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