Several courts have held that a judgment creditor may not garnish a debtor’s bank account located in another state when the bank has no Florida branches. In February, 2019, a U.S. federal court reached the same conclusion, but in this case, the court gave the creditor additional time and options to get the debtor’s money. (2017WL9439161)
The Florida debtor had a bank account at a Georgia bank. The Georgia bank had no Florida branches, although it was a subsidiary of a national bank that did business in Florida. The matter was heard by the Chief Magistrate Judge who issued a recommendation that was, in parts pertinent, adopted by the federal court. The Magistrate recommended that, consistent with prior Florida law, that garnishments are quasi in-rem proceedings, and therefore, the court issuing the garnishment writ must have jurisdiction over both the person and the money in the bank. The decision said that despite modern banking practices conducted largely online and bank account is located for legal purposes at the bank branch where the account is opened. The Magistrate recommended, and the court approved, dissolution of the writ of garnishment because the court did not have jurisdiction over the Georgia bank. The opinion said that the bank’s ownership by a national bank did not alter the location of the funds.
However, the Magistrate delayed implementation of the writ dissolution for 21 days in order to give the creditor time to find and use Georgia court remedies to seize the funds. The debtor’s account remained frozen by the garnishment during the delay. The creditor could possibly have enough time to domesticate the Florida judgment in Georgia and seek an account freeze.
Locating money in banks out of Florida may not be sufficient to keep the money safe if the court purposefully ties up the funds by means other than garnishment so that the creditor can apply for a writ where the account is located. The better solution is to open a bank account in another state that does not permit bank garnishments.
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