The Florida Statutes protect a person who is head of household from wage garnishment. The amount of wages protected is unlimited. A person is head of household if he provides more than 50% of the support of another person. The public policy of this statute is to protect dependents of the family’s biggest wage earner. If wage garnishment were permitted against the person who supports a spouse or children, the theory goes, then the State of Florida and its taxpayers would be responsible to support the dependents of the debtor whose wages were subject to garnishment.
A new client presented the issue of whether the statutory protection against wage garnishment, designed to relieve Florida taxpayers of supporting debtor’s dependents, applies where the dependent (in this case, the wife) was a permanent resident of another state. The question was whether both the wage earner debtor and the dependent both have to be Florida residents. When the dependent is a resident of a different state, the policy behind the statute would not apply.
I know of no case directly on this point. My opinion is that wage garnishment protection applies as long as the debtor is a Florida resident. The statute makes no reference to the residency of dependents and has no requirement that the dependents physically reside with the debtor. Attorney Alan Gassman, a very smart asset protection attorney in Tampa, holds the same opinion about this issue which means that it is probably correct.