An Orlando wage garnishment is a collection tool where a creditor (someone that has a judgment against you) tries to collect on their judgment by placing a lien on the debtor’s wages. In the Orlando area, a wage garnishment is one of the two most common collection tools that a creditor will use for cases in Orange County and Seminole County, the other being a bank account garnishment. As a result of a successful wage garnishment, a percentage of your wages will be automatically withheld by your employer and turned over to your judgment creditor. Usually this is up to 25 percent.
How an Orlando Wage Garnishment Works
In Orlando, wage garnishments are governed by Chapter 77 of the Florida Statutes. Specifically, Section 77.0305 allows a creditor with a judgment to obtain a continuing writ of garnishment that orders the debtor’s employer to pay a portion of the debtor’s salary to the creditor.
In the same court case that the creditor got a judgment against you, the creditor will file a Motion for a Continuing Wage Garnishment. This motion is done ex-parte, which means without notice to you. After filing the motion, the judge will usually grant a Continuing Writ of Garnishment against your wages, which is then served on your employer. Once your employer receives it, the creditor must give you a copy of the motion (and some other documents as well).
After your employer receives the Continuing Writ of Garnishment against your wages, it should immediately begin freezing a portion of your wages–usually up to 25%. But that’s not the end of the process. The employer has twenty days to file an Answer to the Continuing Writ of Wage Garnishment and serve a copy of that Answer to the creditor/plaintiff. You also will have an opportunity to object to the wage garnishment by filing a motion or a claim of exemption.
If you don’t object, or if your objection fails, then the judge will issue a Final Judgment of Garnishment against your wages. That ends the process until the creditor is fully paid.
Keep in mind that some debts bypass the above process. If you owe money for income taxes, child support, or student loans, then your wages can be garnished without a court order.
Asserting Exemptions to Stop an Orlando Wage Garnishment
Believe it or not, you are not powerless in the face of a wage garnishment. Instead, in Florida you have some key exemptions that can be used to defeat a wage garnishment.
Most common is the head-of-household exemption (less commonly known as the head of family exemption). In general, it applies if you provide more than 1/2 of the support for one or more dependents. For example, if you are married with kids and make more than your spouse, then the head-of-household exemption to wage garnishment might apply to you.
These Florida garnishment exemptions are provided for in Section 222.11 of the Florida Statutes. Other exemptions could apply, but they are trickier to assert.
Keep in mind that these exemptions are not automatic. If you do not properly claim the exemptions and assert them in your defense, the creditor can continue to garnish your wages.
Other Ways to Stop a Wage Garnishment in Orlando
In addition to claiming any applicable exemptions, it’s important to make sure that the creditor has properly followed Florida wage garnishment procedures. The garnishment statutes give the creditor strict deadlines for when it must provide certain notices and other documents to you as it tries to garnish your wages. If it misses the deadlines, you might have a good reason for the court to dissolve the continuing writ of garnishment.
Because these deadlines can be burdensome for the creditor to meet, they are very often missed by the creditor.
What Should You Do Next
If you’ve found out that your wages have been garnished–either because your employer told you or because you received documents from the creditor–you must work quickly to claim your exemptions and file a motion to dissolve the writ. Information about statutory exemptions, including the head-of-household exemption, can be found in the Florida Statutes, and the wage garnishment procedures can be found there as well.
It is often a good idea to work on settling the judgment debt at the same time you work to defeat the wage garnishment.
If you’d like help dissolving the wage garnishment against you and settling your debt, let us know.