Bank Executions (Garnishments)
In Connecticut a judgment creditor may apply for a financial institution execution (bank garnishment) when a judgment debtor defaults on an order of judgment payments entered by the court. The creditor can then attempt to execute on the whole unpaid debt.
The current application fee is $105.00 which is added to the debt. If the bank execution application is in order the clerk will sign and return the original for forwarding to a Marshal.
The marshal makes service upon various banks and/or credit unions (one at a time) to attempt to levy upon funds of the judgment debtor. Prior notice to the debtor is not required by law.
Unless a specific bank is known, this process can be somewhat of a fishing expedition. If the marshal locates a bank with an account of the debtor, funds in the account will be frozen on the day of service of the execution on the bank. The marshal is entitled to levy upon the unpaid amount of the judgment together with statutory post judgment interest (usually), the execution application fee and the marshal’s statutory fee (currently 15% of the debt).
A bank will also typically charge its customers between $75.00 and $150.00 when a legal execution has been served, as in a returned check charge. The execution attaches just on the funds that are in the account on the day of service. By way of example, if $200.00 is in the account on Thursday, those funds are attached if the marshal serves a $1,000.00 execution on the bank on Thursday. If an additional $200.00 (or $2000.00) is deposited on Friday the later deposited funds are not affected.
Therefore if a marshal executes on a $1,000.00 judgment (assuming enough funds are on hand) this garnishment may end up costing a judgment debtor in the neighborhood of $1,300.00.
The funds levied upon remain on hand with the bank while notice of the levy and an exemption claim form is sent to the debtor by the bank. If no claim for exemption is filed within fifteen (15) days of this notice then the bank is required to turn the money over to the marshal. The marshal will then deduct his fees and expenses and send the net recovery to this office.
If an exemption claim is filed by the debtor with her bank, the bank will continue to hold the funds and mail the claim to the court which will schedule an exemption hearing and mail notice. The debtor must appear at the hearing and prove their exemption with bank records, etc. The money attached remains frozen until a disposition notice is received by the bank from the court. Occasionally, appropriate compromises with the debtor are entered into at this time.
If the entire amount is recovered the marshal will deliver the funds to this office together with a return of service indicating the debt is “fully satisfied.” If the debt is only partially satisfied, another garnishment can be attempted, but very often a new payment plan is entered into with the debtor at this time.
There is no limit to the number of bank garnishments that a judgment creditor can apply for each judgment debtor. After a partial garnishment if a debtor does not contact our office to make meaningful arrangements for payment of the balance of the debt another garnishment can be attempted.
Information vendors can provide banking information to creditors for a fee, usually on a no-find no-fee basis, but still will charge if an account is located with only minimal funds or in an out of state bank for example.
The process is also dependent on the bank’s efficient, accurate handling of these garnishments which is not at all guaranteed. (If a bank mishandles a garnishment or exemption claim, the law provides that they can be found liable for the debt and a Turnover Order entered.)
If a judgment debtor does his banking in an obscure credit union the marshal may not find any funds throughout this entire process. Therefore it is critical that creditors keep advised of their customer’s banking information.