Changes to Georgia's Garnishment Code Take Effect on January 1, 2021
On August 5, 2020, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law Senate Bill 443 (SB443) modifying the existing garnishment code. These modifications are effective starting January 1, 2021.
Of interest to creditors/garnishment plaintiffs and to garnishees:
- The length of the garnishment period for a continuing garnishment is extended from six months to three years, with extensions to the current time limits for pending continuing garnishments to meet the newly extended timeline.
- Creditor plaintiffs are now entitled to file continuing garnishments against not only a judgment debtor’s employer, but also against a person or entity “under periodic obligations for payment” to the judgment debtor/defendant. This expands the garnishee target list for collection to better fit today’s “gig” economy.
- The modified code reduces the proof required that a garnishment defendant/judgment debtor has received statutory notice of the garnishment filing (long a sticking point in situations in which debtors refuse to accept certified mailings or otherwise avoid receipt of notice).
- Any person or entity providing payroll services to a garnishee is now permitted to file answers on behalf of that garnishee and paper answers can be filed (by non-lawyers) even in courts otherwise requiring e-filing.
- Defendants/judgment debtors are subject to new limitations on their ability to pursue claims to garnished funds, including that they must do so at their first opportunity in each garnishment, and that the court may decline to hear or may deny a claim filed after the applicable time limits.
There are many more procedural or housecleaning changes included in the modified code, which potentially apply to clients in three different ways: (1) as a garnishment plaintiff/judgment creditor, (2) as a garnishee, and/or (3) as a defendant/judgment debtor.