Florida statutes state that wages, salary, commissions and other compensation for personal services paid to the head of household cannot be garnished by a creditor. The “salary exemption” is an important part of Florida asset protection law. The definition of “head of household” has been the subject of numerous Florida court decisions. Recently, a client presented the issue of whether a divorced father can be a head of household if he provides more than 50% of the support for adult children, one of whom is married. Florida courts have stated consistently that wage garnishment protection should be liberally construed in favor of the debtor. Most courts have held that the term “child” in the wage garnishment statute does not have an implied age limitation, and that even an adult child whom the parent does not have a legal support obligation can be deemed a dependent for purposes of the statute on the basis of the parent’s moral obligation to care for his children.
As long as the child, even as an adult, depends on his parent for more than 50% of the child’s financial support, the parent can claim to be head of household. The parent need not be married, and the child need not reside in the same house as the parent. In fact, one court said the dependent child may even reside outside of Florida. Courts in Florida will look at the facts of each such case, and as long as the parent is providing most of the financial support to a dependent child, the parent can claim head of household protection from garnishment.