Disclaimer: The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer through our lawyer referral service line.
This topic discusses the enforcement of a judgment by garnishee. The garnishment process takes time and is complex; however, it is inexpensive and can be effective.
If a judgment has been given in your favor by the Small Claims Court, the Court of Queen’s Bench or Employment Standards and you have been unable to collect the amount from the other party, there are legal remedies or procedures you can use to collect your money. One such remedy is Garnishment.
Receiving a Judgment
At the end of a court hearing, you will receive a court judgment. The judgement can be from the Provincial Court, Civil (also known as Small Claims Court), the Court of Queen’s Bench or Employment Standards. Upon receiving the Court Judgement, make several copies and distribute them in the following way:
- (1) File one copy with the Court of Queen’s Bench;
- (2) Serve one copy on the other party (or each of the other parties); and
- (3) Keep one copy for your file.
When you file your Judgment at the Court of Queen’s Bench, the clerk will stamp all the copies, register the Judgment, and provide you with a Court of Queen’s Bench action number. Once you receive this action number, send out a Demand Letter to the other party (debtor) and request payment of the amount provided in the Judgement.
Writ of Enforcement
If the other party has failed to respond to a demand to pay, file a Writ of Enforcement. Use the same Court of Queen’s Bench action number on the Writ of Enforcement. This notifies other creditors that you have a claim against that person.
The Writ of Enforcement forms are available online at the Alberta Courts website. Ensure that you have at least five copies of the Writ of Enforcement and distribute them in the following way:
- (1) Use one copy as a draft and take it to a Clerk at the Court of Queen’s Bench ( be sure it is filled out correctly before you complete the other copies);
- (2) Keep one copy for your file;
- (3) File one copy at the Court of Queen’s Bench;
- (4) Register one copy at the Personal Property Registry; and
- (5) Register one copy at the Land Titles Office (if applicable).
Registration at the Personal Property Registry and the Land Titles Office will serve as Notice to other creditors that you have a claim against the debtor.
This process allows a “garnishee” to be served with a notice to pay the amount of the judgment directly to the person that the money is owed. The Summons tells a garnishee that instead of paying money to the debtor the money must be paid to you. The garnishee is then responsible for serving notice of the Garnishee Summons on the debtor.
A garnishee is not just the person who owes the money (the debtor), but can include;
- The debtors employer;
- A financial institution that has an account for the debtor; or
- Anyone else that owes the debtor money.
A Garnishee Summons form can be found on the Alberta Courts website. When filling out the form, provide the same information contained in the Court Judgment on the Garnishee Summons. A search must be done at the Personal Property Registry to see if other Writs are registered against the debtor and their amount. The amount on the Garnishee Summons must include the value of all other registered Writs. The Garnishee Summons form contains an Affidavit that must be sworn before a Commissioner for Oaths. This can be done at the Office of the Clerk of the Court at the time you file your Garnishee Summons.
A $25.00 administration fee must be paid to the garnishee with the Garnishee Summons.
In most cases, the Garnishee Summons is effective for two years. A Garnishee Summons can be renewed after it expires if necessary. If only a portion of the debt is paid into Court, the garnishee must continue to garnish and pay future amounts into Court for two years or until the debt is satisfied.
A garnishee must provide a response to the Court within 15 days of receiving a Garnishee Summons. When making payments to the Court, a garnishee must pay the amount of money required by the Garnishee Summons within 5 days following the end of the debtor’s last pay period.
If there is no money payable, the garnishee must provide reasons to the Court why money will not be paid. For example, there may not be any money available in the debtor’s bank account or the employer owed no money to the debtor on the day you served the summons.
When the money is paid into the Court, a Clerk will send out a Proposed Distribution. This sets out the amount to be paid to each creditor. A Proposed Distribution is required by law when there is not enough money to pay all creditors. The creditor who issued the Garnishee Summons is entitled to the first $2,000.00 collected under the Summons. The balance of the money is then divided among all creditors in proportion to the amount they are owed.
If the Garnishee is the Debtor’s Employer
If the garnishee is the debtor’s employer, ensure that a Garnishee’s Worksheet is included with the Garnishee Summons (available at the Clerk’s Office or online). Serve the Summons by handing the documents to the garnishee or by registered mail. The Summons document outlines the employment earnings exemptions available to the debtor. If the debtor has no dependents, the minimum employment earnings exemption is $800.00, and the maximum exemption is $2,400.00. The minimum and maximum employment earnings exemption is increased by $200.00 for each dependent. The following persons are considered to be dependents;
- (a) Any person identified as a dependent by an Order of the Court;
- (b) Any child of the debtor who is under 18 years of age & lives with the debtor;
- (c) The spouse or adult interdependent partner of the debtor; or
- (d) Any relative of the debtor (or of the debtor’s spouse/adult interdependent partner) who lives with the debtor and depends financially on the debtor because of mental or physical infirmity.
For Judgments for alimony or maintenance, employment exemptions will apply. The exemption for earnings is $525.00 plus 30% of net wages or salary over that amount owed.
Ensure that you have at least 6 copies of the Garnishee Summons and distribute them in the following way;
- (1) Use one copy as a rough draft and take it to a Clerk at the Court of Queen’s Bench (be sure it is filled out correctly before you complete the other copies);
- (2) Serve three copies on the other garnishee;
- (3) File one copy at the Court of Queen’s Bench; and
- (4) Keep one copy for your file.
If the Garnishee is the Debtor’s Bank
Garnishee Summons issued on bank accounts will expire 60 days from the date issued. If a bank account is held jointly with someone else, the Garnishee Summons is only good on the day the Summons is served.
The money garnished from a jointly held bank account is only that portion considered to belong to the debtor. This is presumed to be one half of the account balance (unless the other joint holders of the account obtain a Court Order stating that they are entitled to a different amount).
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.