Garnishment is the process of “attaching” a judgment to specific funds in a debtor’s bank account or other money owed to the debtor. To be able to garnish funds from a bank account, you must have the debtor’s banking information, including the specific bank branch used by the debtor. If you are garnishing wages, special rules and limitations apply.
The creditor must first obtain a garnishing order by application to the court. Usually this will not require attendance in court, but will be granted as a “desk order” without any necessary appearance before a judge. The application requires written evidence in support of the order. If the order is granted, the garnishee (i.e. the bank) is usually served first, followed by the debtor in order to maintain surprise and to prevent removal of the funds before garnishment. Since courts in BC require strict compliance with the rules, it is a good idea to enlist a lawyer to assist you to garnish.
If there are funds in the bank account, the garnishee will usually pay them into court pursuant to the order, and the creditor can then apply for the funds to be paid out of court on notice to the garnishee and to the debtor.
If there are insufficient funds in the account to satisfy the entire judgment, multiple garnishing orders may be required, however, garnishing orders are only good for one garnishment, and must be repeated each time the creditor wishes to garnish. This can be challenging if the debtor changes banks, for example, once garnished.
In certain circumstances, garnishing orders may be granted before judgment or even before the debtor has been served with any documents indicating a lawsuit has been started. This is known as a pre-judgment garnishing order and is subject to special requirements. It can be extremely effective in catching a debtor by surprise with money in his or her bank account. If monies are paid into court before judgment pursuant to a pre-judgment garnishing order, the creditor cannot have the funds paid out of court until the creditor obtains judgment.