I’ll address two similar client questions in a single blog post. One caller told me he had lost his job and that credit cards had already sued him. He cannot afford an attorney to defend the lawsuits or to negotiate on his behalf with the credit card companies. He is concerned that after they get a judgment the credit card companies will garnish his unemployment check. This person is head of household.
A second person sent me an email recently because he was concerned a judgment creditor could garnish alimony payments from her ex-husband. She said she needs all of the alimony to survive financially including support of her child.
The Florida statutes exempt from garnishment earned income including wages, salary, and commissions of a head of household debtor. It appears that the legislature is protecting from creditors money the debtor earns from his or her job. Unemployment compensation is paid for “not working” and is not earnings from employment. Alimony is taxable income, but it too is not earnings from employment. Does Florida’s wage garnishment protection exempt unemployment compensation and alimony. The answer is: “no, but its ok.”
Unemployment compensation and alimony are not protected from creditors by virtue of Florida’s statutory protection against garnishment of earnings of the head of household debtors. However, unemployment compensation and alimony is exempt from garnishment. There is a separate Florida statute which exempts all unemployment compensation from creditor claims, and Florida appellate courts have protected alimony from garnishment as a matter of good public policy.