A garnishment is a court order to an employer to withhold a sum of money from an employee's earnings for payment of a debt. The state of Arizona draws a distinction between garnishments for support obligations (AZ Rev. Stat. Sec. 25-505.01) and garnishments for other debts (AZ Rev. Stat. Sec. 12-1598.01 ). There are numerous state and federal provisions pertaining to garnishment. Where state laws are more restrictive than federal law (e.g., by protecting more of the employee's salary from garnishment), state laws will govern.
Garnishment vs. wage assignment. Garnishment and assignment of wages are both methods of deducting money from an employee's salary to repay his or her debts. Normally, an assignment of wages is a voluntary procedure in which the employee agrees to the deduction, while garnishment is an involuntary procedure which is usually applied because the employee has not paid the debt voluntarily. However, in cases involving arrearages for the support of dependents, the state of Arizona characterizes the order to withhold as an order of assignment. These involuntary assignments should not be confused with voluntary assignments--as, for example, to make payments on a loan. Assignments of the latter type originate with the employee and not the courts. For purposes of convenience, we refer to all court-issued orders to withhold as “garnishments.”