County Clerk of Courts Barry Wilkes could not explain why Liberty County is seeing a decrease in creditors suing for property or forfeited wages while metro Atlanta offices recently have been falling behind because of so many garnishment filings.
"We're not at the end of the year, but compared to the previous year, it looks like it's about a 40 percent decrease," Wilkes said.
Last year the office saw 209 individuals and businesses file in demand of debt payment or property and 136 so far for this year.
Wilkes reasoned the decrease could be due to people simply not filing garnishments even though plenty of people still are being sent to collections. He mentioned there has been a noticeable increase in evictions.
Star Meeds, a paralegal with the John Pytte Bankruptcy Law Firm, agreed.
"We've seen a lot more foreclosures on homes, as well as vehicles," Meeds said.
The law office commonly sees people’s wages being garnished by credit cards companies and collection agencies seeking payment for repossessed vehicles.
When payment defaults are backed up, an agency or individual can take the debtor to court and have a garnishment sent to the employer or bank account, where up to 25 percent of income per pay period is surrendered.
Businesses, corporations, hospitals and credit card companies typically file garnishments, according to Wilkes.
"Most of the report I see it's pretty diverse," he said. "Most of them are going to hospitals, doctors, banks and credit card companies."
Wilkes said his experience shows parties exhaust all the options before a person receives a garnishment.
"Each case is a different scenario," he said. "Most credit card companies work with individuals a long time before they ever file a lawsuit against them."
Wilkes recognized some garnishments are on a person refusing to pay because of a dispute of what is owed and unscrupulous business people.
He did not see a recent pattern in the kind of people who have garnishments filed against them, but includes those "who you would never think be in dire financial straits."
"Historically, we have had people of all economic strata have garnishments filed against them," Wilkes said. "It's not just poor people."
Meeds has been a paralegal since 2005 and has also seen a variety of people in over their heads, turning to bankruptcy to stop garnishments.
"We get clients who just can't keep up with all their bills and mortgages and they just try to consolidate everything to catch up," she said.
"I predict if this economy holds the way it is our numbers are going to increase substantially," Wilkes said. "You're going to see people...who are going to have hard times making ends meet."