If a debtor owes a sum of money and, for whatever reason, has declined to pay it, the creditor may petition a court to have the payor’s wages garnished. Wage garnishment, or attachment of debt, is a court-ordered procedure in which a garnishee (usually, but not always, the debtor’s employer) remits part of the debtor’s owed wages or salary to the court instead of the employee, for the payment of the outstanding amount. In Canada, there are some nationwide laws regarding wage garnishment, but some particulars are left to the individual provinces.
In Saskatchewan, these particulars are determined by the Attachment of Debts Act. Under the act, a creditor may make a claim against a debtor in court. If a judgment is ultimately made against the debtor, a garnishee summons may be served to the garnishee determined by the court – again, usually the debtor’s employer. This summons requires the garnishee to pay to the required amount to the court instead of the employee for all debts or accruals present at time of serving and for five days afterward. Since the term on the garnishee summons is limited, a new order must be served every payday, making wage garnishment an expensive, if effective, way to recover debts for the creditor.
The garnishee summons is normally only valid if the creditor has received a favorable claim against the debtor. In rare circumstances, however, the court may determine that it is prudent to begin garnishing of wages before the final claim has been issued. While in these rare circumstances wage garnishment will begin early, the wages are held by the court and not forwarded to the creditor until the creditor wins the lawsuit. In these cases, the Act allows any party affected by this early garnishee summons may petition the court to remove it, including the garnishee.
The Attachment of Debts Act exempts certain amounts from being garnished, providing a minimum level of income regardless of any wage garnishment orders. In Saskatchewan, this amount is $500 per month for the debtor, plus $100 for each of his or her dependents. “Dependent” in this case refers to a wife, husband, brother, sister, parent, or grandparent of any age, plus all people younger than sixteen years old, plus anyone sixteen years old or older who is a full time student. Any persons with physical or mental disability who preclude them from earning a livelihood on their own are also included. This provision differs from other Canadian provinces, some of which calculate item-by-item a required amount depending on living arrangements and necessary medical care.
If the debtor receives any kind of board or lodging from the garnishee, the creditor may apply to the court to have that lodging included in calculations for wage garnishment purposes. Depending on circumstances, this may also include a company-provided automobile or other fixed benefit. If the judgment creditor’s claim is upheld, the value of the benefit will be deducted from the standard wage garnishment exemption the debtor would be otherwise entitled to.
Since all values in Saskatchewan’s Attachment of Debts Act are assumed monthly, it also specifies that all amounts pertaining to a period of less than one month will be held exempt in the same ratio. For purposes of this clause, one month is considered to be equivalent to four weeks – so a single debtor with no dependents or other benefits provided by the garnishee will be entitled to a $125 exemption per week, amounting to $500 exempted for the month.
The exemption explicitly does not include a number of income sources: any action resulting from a separation agreement, such as alimony; any other court judgment or court order; debts contracted from board or lodging; hospital expenses as long as they are payable to a hospital; and amounts recoverable by a municipality under the Local Improvement Districts Act or the Local Improvements District Relief Act.
Natives of Saskatchewan have four options available to them once wages are being garnished. The first, and simplest, is to pay the debt. Payment of outstanding amounts will stop all wage garnishment immediately.
Saskatchewan residents have an option not available to all Canadian citizens: a non-profit Credit Counseling Center may help the debtor petition for an Orderly Payment of Debts, a consolidation order that permits the debtor to make monthly payments only to the credit counselor. While under an Orderly Payment of Debts order, the debtor is protected from collection efforts for the term of the order, usually 4 years. Any garnishments currently active are halted as long as monthly payments are made as arranged.
Barring that, Saskatchewan residents may also work with a Licensed Bankruptcy Trustee. The trustee may suggest a consumer proposal, a similar arrangement where the debtor makes monthly payments for no more than five years to the trustee, who handles disbursing the payments to creditors. Any garnishment and other collection activities are halted as long as the consumer proposal is upheld. Alternatively, the debtor may declare personal bankruptcy. Note that both of these efforts will encompass all personal debts, not only those that brought on the garnishment.
As in all legal cases, it is strongly advised you contact a lawyer in your province to discuss what options are open to you and what the best course of action may be for your specific situation.
InfoAviator Publishing is a organization determined to help Canadian consumers understand wage garnishment laws that are currently residing in the towns of (but not limited to) Flin Flon, Melville, Meadow Lake, Melfort, Humboldt, Warman, Martensville, Lloydminster, Weyburn, Estevan, North Battleford, Swift Current, Yorkton, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatoon, in Canada.