How to get back the garnished money yourself.
Updated: Jan 5
Virginia is the only state I know where you have the right to get back garnished money.
To get back money that's been garnished from your bank account or paycheck, here's what you'll need. Two forms. A notary. Two trips to the courthouse. And a $22.00 filing fee in cash. (Recently some courts have begun to prefer and accept card payments.)
“To get back money that's been garnished from your bank account or pay, here's what you'll need. Two forms. A notary. Two trips to the courthouse. And a $22.00 filing fee.”
The second form, Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim, is an official Virginia General District Court form, DC 407. In front of this form are instructions. I can't make heads or tails of them. But the form itself is not too bad. It's here.
(You should already have that second form, DC 407 Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim. The lawyers who are garnishing you were supposed to send you a copy along with the garnishment summons. See if you got one.)
Fill in the forms
Start with that homestead deed. Fill in your name, home address, county (or Virginia city.) Then who garnished you, from what bank or paycheck, and how much did they take.
Then fill in the DC 407 Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim. You fill in the top blanks from the garnishment summons. Name and address of the court house. Name of the creditor who is garnishing you, and your name. Also the case number, again from the garnishment summons.
Then, about half way down, you check box 11. "Homestead - $5000." That's what we are doing here. We are claiming your Virginia "homestead" right to get back up to $5000 that's been garnished.
At the bottom, your name, address, phone number and your signature.
Now Find a Notary
The Homestead deed needs a notary signature. The other form, DC 407 Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim doesn't.
After you have the notary on the homestead deed, make 4 copies. While you are making copies, make yourself a copy of DC 407 Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim, too. Then you are ready for your first visit to the courthouse. There are two parts to this visit.
The Homestead Deed needs a notary signature.
Take the Homestead Deed to Circuit Court land records
When you get to the courthouse, ask one of the deputies where to find Circuit Court Land records. When you get there, tell them you have a homestead deed to record. Give them the original and the copies.
They will take the original to record in the deed book. and after several days mail the original back to you, or maybe to me.
Then they will "file stamp" the copies. That's your proof that the original of the homestead deed has been recorded.
There's a $22.00 filing fee for the Homestead Deed. The courts accept checks from lawyers, but all other pay cash. (Nearly all there business is with lawyers, so they might not be able to break a twenty. Have exact money. and a couple extra dollar bills in case there's been a fee increase since I wrote this. Prince William Circuit Court is showing $22.00 as of August 2021.)
General District Civil
Now, get directions to General District Civil. (So far, I've assumed the county where you live and the court where you are garnished is the same. The Homestead Deed goes to Circuit Court land records where you live. But now you need to go to General District Civil in the court that's garnishing you.)
Give that DC 407 Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim to General District Civil. They will tell you what day to come back. (I think they often look to see when the lawyer who is garnishing you is scheduled to be there next, and they give you that day.)
You should also give the clerk a copy of the file stamp Homestead deed. Some clerks seem to accept it, some don't. Box 11 on the DC 407 Request for Hearing - Exemption Claim tells you to attach a list. That's why I think you are supposed to give them the Homestead deed, but whatever.
There's a hard deadline
Look at that Garnishment Summons you got. Find the return date. That's the court date that's the stop date on the garnishment. You've gotta get all this done before or on that return date. Miss it, and you lost your rights.
I've known one judge who said doing all this on the morning of that return date is too late. That judge didn't know the law. which says that "prior to or upon the return date" is good enough. Don't wait until the last minute if you can help it.
Finally, your chance to talk to the Judge
At last, come back to court on the date you got from the General District Civil Clerk. There are usually big screens that tell you what is happening in each court room. Make sure you are in the right place and there in plenty of time.
When the Judge calls your case, say "Your honor, I have a Homestead Deed." There will be a deputy sheriff who can pass the Homestead Deed from you up to the judge. (The judge should have the copy you left with the General District Civil clerk, but you can't count on that.) Also, pass a copy over to the garnishment lawyer. (That's why you made four copies.)
Then the Judge is supposed to sign a paper that gets mailed back to your bank or payroll, and in a couple weeks, the money should show back up in your account or paycheck.
The Judge is supposed to sign a paper that gets mailed back to your bank or payroll, and in a couple weeks, the money should show back up in your account or paycheck.
Hope This Works
You never know for sure what you are going to get, when you go in front of a judge, But I can tell you that it nearly always works the way I've laid out here. Good luck.
Some Times You Need to Follow Up
My friend Lalani followed all these instructions, but her payroll office never gave her the money back.
She had to go back to the General District Court clerks office herself and get a copy of the judge's order sending the money back. (Her payroll should have gotten that in the mail six weeks before.) That was finally enough to get the money back into her paycheck.