A Florida wage garnishment is the creditor’s tool to attack money owed to the judgment debtor. There are ways to stop a Florida wage garnishment. Wages and salary constitute a debt owed by an employer to the debtor employee. A writ of wage garnishment enables the judgment creditor to take a portion of wages owed to the debtor. Wage garnishment is a special type of garnishment writ provided by Florida Statutes.
A creditor holding a Florida judgment can cause the court to garnish a debtor’s wages or salary as long as required in order to satisfy a Florida judgment. What makes the Florida wage garnishment particularly effective is the continuing application of the writ. A single writ served on the debtor’s employer will garnish all of the debtor’s salary and wages as they become payable in the future until the judgment is satisfied or the garnishment is dissolved. Garnishment writs directed at other debts or compensation, such as rents or payments to an independent contractor, apply only to payments due the debtor on the day the writ is served upon the garnishee. There are no continuing garnishments against any debts other than wages.
Wage garnishment in Florida is not permitted against a debtor who qualifies as the head of household. This exemption is complex. A debtor who receives notice that his wages have been garnished has several methods of asserting a head-of-household exemption. The garnishing creditor is required to provide the garnished debtor with a claim of exemption form. The debtor may claim a head-of-household (or other exemption) exemption on the form, mail the exemption form to the court, and wait for the court to schedule a hearing on the head-of-household exemption. A more assertive debtor can file a motion to dissolve the wage garnishment and request an expedited hearing.
In the same court case that the creditor got a judgment against you, the creditor will file a Motion for a Continuing Writ of Garnishment. This motion is done ex-parte, which means without notice to you. After filing the motion, the judge will usually grant the Writ of Continuing Wage Garnishment, which is then served onto your employer. Once your employer receives it, the creditor must give you a copy of the motion along with other documents (including the claim of exemption).
Once your employer receives the Writ of Continuing Wage Garnishment, it will immediately begin freezing a portion of your wages–usually up to 25 percent. But that’s not the end of the process. The employer has 20 days to file an answer (response) to the Writ of Continuing Wage Garnishment and serve a copy of that answer to the creditor. You also will have an opportunity to object to the wage garnishment and claim any exemptions that apply. If you don’t object, or if your objections fail, then the judge will issue an Order of Wage Garnishment. That ends the process until the creditor is fully paid.
Keep in mind that some debts bypass the above process. For example, if you owe money for income taxes, child support, or student loans, then your wages can be garnished without a court order.
Debtors who are not head of household, or who have waived their head of household garnishment protection, may have their wages garnished only up to limits allowed by federal law. The Consumer Credit Protection Act limits wage garnishments to no more than the lesser of 25 percent of a debtor’s disposable weekly income or disposable earnings equal to 30 times the Federal minimum wage. However, greater amounts may be garnished to enforce tax debts or court ordered domestic support obligations.
Wage garnishments, like all other garnishments, are subject to strict and detailed legal procedures. The garnishment procedures are strictly construed and a seemingly insignificant procedural error on a creditor’s wage garnishment may provide grounds to dissolve the writ.
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 exemptions (including the head of household exemption) and wage garnishment procedures can be found in Florida Statutes. 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 want help dealing with your garnishment, or want advice on how to best assert your exemptions, give us a call to schedule an appointment.