Can Creditor Seize Alimony Payments

A divorced female reader submitted an interesting question about alimony payments. The reader relies on alimony payments from former spouse to pay most of her bills. She does not support a child, and therefore, she is not the head of a household. She is facing potential judgments from credit card companies as a result of her inability to pay some debts incurred during the marriage. She asks if her creditors could garnish her alimony payments.

The Florida Statutes do not exempt alimony from execution by creditors. Alimony in other context is considered to be a form of income. Therefore, if a debtor receiving alimony supported a child and was head of household the debtor could take the position that her alimony is protected under Florida’s wage exemption. This reader lives alone and is not head of household. There is no statutory exemption protecting her alimony.

Nevertheless, several Florida courts including both state courts and federal bankruptcy courts have issued decisions stating that alimony is not subject to claims of creditors or a bankruptcy trustee. These courts have held that it is against public policy to allow creditors to seize alimony. Much of Florida’s debtor exemptions are based on the policy to protect families. The protections are not designed to excuse debtors as much as protecting those financially dependent on debtors. Court decisions exempting alimony from garnishment probably reflect a policy of protecting single parent households who depend on alimony income.

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