Florida Statute 222.11 prohibits a creditor from garnishing the earnings of a debtor who qualifies as head of household. Florida residents working in another state are unable to enforce this garnishment exemptions in foreign state courts because the law does not permit debtors to export Florida’s exemptions. But, is the reverse also true? Can the resident of a foreign state assert a head of household garnishment exemption in a Florida wage garnishment proceeding?
One of my clients resides in Wisconsin with his family. A creditor holds a Wisconsin judgement against the client. The client works for a company based in Florida with no offices in Wisconsin. The client is concerned that the creditor could domesticate the judgment in Florida and seek an order of continuing wage garnishment through Florida’s courts against his Florida employer. The client would qualify as head of household under Florida law because he supports his family.
As I began researching the question I expected to find that only Florida residents can assert Florida’s statutory wage garnishment exemption. I was surprised to find a very recent court decision that came to a different conclusion in favor of a foreign state debtor. The court said that debtor need not be a resident of Florida to assert head of household protection in a wage garnishment proceeding in a Florida court.
The court found that the wage garnishment statute used to require that the head of household debtor “reside in this state.” The residence requirement was deleted from the statute in a 1993 amendment. The court decided that the legislatures intentional deletion of the description of debtors as residing in the state expresses the legislatures intent that both residents and non-residents may assert the head of household exemption from wage garnishment.