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Protect your Social Security Benefits from Garnishment

By virtue of Act Number LX11 of 2021, an amendment to the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, Cap. 12. of the Laws of Malta, came into force by which it was established that a garnishee order may not be issued not only on any benefit, pension, allowance or aid referred to in the Social Security Act (Kap. 318.) or private pension or any other pension, benefit or allowance issued by the Government or another foreign government, but also on bank accounts which are used in order for beneficiaries to receive the said benefits.

By virtue of this amendment, it has also been established that local banks must ensure that the social benefits received in the beneficiaries’ accounts are not affected by the effect of a garnishee order. In addition, the amendment also stipulates that local banks must open separate bank accounts in which each beneficiary can receive social benefits.

Accordingly, any individual benefiting from a social benefit listed above must, in the event of an garnishee order being issued on his bank accounts, immediately contact his bank in order to release such benefits from the effect of the garnishee order.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Since when did the amendment to the law governing a garnishee order on social benefits come into force?
Answer: As of 29/10/2021, Article 381 of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure (CAP. 12.) has been amended so as not to withhold any benefits against garnishee order. If you have a garnishee order, please inform your preferred bank of the amendment to Article 318 of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, so that you can have a bank account issued in your name as required.

Question: What should I do if I receive a garnishee order and am receving a social benefit?
Answer: If you receive garnishee order,  you contact your local bank immediately so that your benefits will not be adversely affected by the effect of the garnishee order?

Question: Do I need proof or documentation to be provided to the bank?
Answer: The Department of Social Security will take care to provide the individual with the required documentation so that he can provide it to a bank. It is therefore in your best interest to request the documentation from the Department so that you can provide it to your local bank by calling Freephone 153 or visiting one of the servizz.gov hubs.

Question: What should I do if a garnishee order was issued before this amendment was introduced?
Answer: This amendment will apply to those garnishee orders that have entered into force after the amendment was introduced. In the case of garnishee orders issued before the introduction of this amendment, the individual may still contact the bank so that from the date on which the contact is made, the benefits will cease to be affected by the effect of the garnishee order.

Question: I have money in my personal account other than social benefits, how will these be affected?
Answer: If you have non-social benefits in your bank account, they will be affected by the garnishee order. Only social benefits as stated in the law will not be affected by the effect of the garnishee order.

Question: If I have a bank account in which I receive social benefits and I receive a garnishee order, what will the bank do?
Answer: After contacting the bank, the social benefits should not be affected by the effect of the garnishee order. The law also stipulates that the bank may open another separate account in your name that is used exclusively for social benefit deposits. In this case, you must immediately inform the Department of Social Security regarding the IBAN number of this new account.

Question: Can I receive the benefit by check instead?
Answer: The amendment to the law has been introduced so that any benefit, allowance, allowance or pension paid under the Social Security Act (Cap. 318.), is not seized under a garnishee order. Therefore, the Department of Social Security encourages you to receive your payments in a bank account.

Question: So far, I receive the benefit by cheque. If I have a garnishee order, what should I do?
Answer: If payments are currently being made by the Department of Social Security and you receive a garnishee order, you should immediately contact your local bank so that, as required by law, the bank may open an account in your name that is used exclusively for social benefit deposits.

Question: Will I still receive the benefit by cheque?
Answer: If payments are currently being made by the Department of Social Security by cheque, you can update the details so that you can start receiving the payment by direct deposit at the bank. It is planned that cheque payments will no longer be issued in the near future.

Question: Should the bank withhold my payment, what should I do?
Answer: A garnishee order cannot be issued on any benefit, pension, allowance or assistance referred to in the Social Security Act (Cap. 318.), as well as on bank accounts that are used for beneficiaries to receive the said benefits. Hence, you must contact your local bank immediately so that such benefits are released from the effect of the garnishee order. If for any reason after contacting the bank they still withhold your payment, you should immediately notify the Department of Social Security by calling Freephone 153 or visiting one of the servizz.gov. hubs.

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