As a matter of law, you should have received notice when a collection attorney sued you. Under Georgia law, a sheriff’s deputy should have knocked at your door and handed you (or an adult member of your household) a lawsuit. However, there are many areas where this lawsuit service process could break down:
- you may have been served, but ignored the lawsuit or even forgot about it
- you may have been served and did not know what to do, or perhaps you wrote a letter to the creditor or to the judge with an explanation (this doesn’t count as an “Answer”). When you didn’t hear anything (you won’t), you assumed that the problem had gone away (it did not)
- the sheriff’s deputy may have handed the paperwork to a teenage child or to an adult friend staying with you and that person never gave you the paperwork
- the creditor may have served another person with the same or similar name at a different address and you never were properly served
- the small print on your credit application may have provided for “service” in another state
the point here is that the system for lawsuit service is imperfect and you could end up suffering the consequences even if the gaps in the process resulted in unfair results. Your credit report, by the way, is a good place to look for evidence of lawsuits and judgments – under Georgia law you can get your credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you never knew about a lawsuit, then you would not get notice of a court hearing on the creditor’s Motion for Summary Judgment. In fact, a high percentage of collection lawsuits are not answered and end up in default judgment, so a judge would not find it unusual that no one showed up to court.
Once a default judgment is issued, the creditors’ collection lawyer will get a fi fa and send notice of garnishment to your employer. Your employer is not obligated to give you notice and, of course, many employers use payroll companies that process paycheck garnishments as a matter of course.
This is why you may not know about your paycheck garnishment until the day you open your paystub and see that 25% of your take home pay is gone.