If you don’t pay a debt, a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.

Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Don’t ignore a lawsuit summons. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage garnishment. The maximum amount that can be garnished is 25% of your net pay.

Ask your bank or employer for copies of the garnishment papers. Contact the court on the garnishment papers and ask them for copies of their paperwork. You should also ask how the lawsuit was served on you.