Florida Garnishment Statute

Florida Garnishment Statute

How Garnishment Works Under Florida Law

When an individual misses multiple payments on a debt, lenders and creditors can file a suit against the debtor. If a debtor chooses not to attend court or offer any payment arrangement or proof of financial hardship, the courts will likely enter a judgment against them.

One of the most common concerns amongst debtors is wage garnishment, wondering if this is merely a threat or scare tactic or if a collector can actually garnish their wages. A judgment ruling in a lawsuit initiated by a creditor can open the doors for the collector to garnish wages, collecting a portion of the debtor’s paycheck each pay period until they pay off the debt in full.

Florida garnishment statute section 77.041 imposes procedural rules and deadlines for creditors, additionally allowing judgment creditors to contest a garnishment. Creditors must comply with all garnishment statutes, including properly completing and mailing legal papers while complying with various deadlines.

To reclaim their rightful property, a money judgment is not a self-executing action, it must be enforced. The creditor must enter the judgment to garnish wages for paying medical bills, credit card debts, past utilities, and personal loans. Alternatively, a collector will not need a judgment to garnish wages for taxes, child support, or federally-backed student loans.

When Can a Creditor Garnish Wages in Florida?

Most creditors will not obtain a wage garnishment until they first obtain a court judgment stating that the debtor owes them money. When a debtor is behind on a loan, creditors cannot garnish their wages before first filing a lawsuit and obtaining the money judgment against the debtor.

According to Florida Garnishment Statute §77, creditors may garnish 25 percent of a debtor’s weekly earnings after legally required deductions. This includes federal, state, and local taxes. 

A creditor may additionally garnish the amount by which a debtor’s weekly post-tax income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. We can also refer to this as disposable income. Essentially, “disposable income” is the amount of wages left after an employer makes deductions as required by law. 

If the debtor’s disposable income is less than $217.50, these wages are additionally exempt from creditor wage garnishment.

Potential Challenges

Once a creditor receives a judgment and begins garnishing a debtor’s wages, they may choose to appeal the decision or file for bankruptcy.

When a debtor has dependents, they may file for a Claim of Exemption by claiming a Head of Household exemption. If they can claim as a head of household or show that they pay at least half of the living expenses required by a dependent, a creditor cannot garnish their wages if weekly disposable income totals less than $750.

According to the Florida garnishment statute, filing for bankruptcy may additionally stop wage garnishment. If a debtor’s paycheck is already subject to garnishment or they don’t meet the exemptions, filing for bankruptcy is often their last option.

By filing for bankruptcy, all wage garnishments and attempts at collection must cease while the courts accumulate and process the debts. 

When a debtor files for chapter 7 bankruptcy, they can potentially discharge debts once the courts disperse eligible assets to settle with creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy restructures the debt, enabling the debtor to make payments that are dispersed to those whom the debtor owes money. After 3 to 5 years, eligible debt becomes discharged.

Bank Account Garnishment in Florida

In Florida, bank accounts are a common tactic for creditor writs of garnishment. The law in Florida requires that when a bank receives a garnishment writ from a creditor, every account in the debtor’s name on the title of the account must be immediately frozen.

A debtor cannot sue a bank for damages if the bank froze an account that contained money that was not subject to garnishment. Debtors must seek a court order confirming the exemption, thus stopping the garnishment.

Understanding the Florida Garnishment Statute | Creditor Defense Law from the Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L.

Our firm the Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L. has the necessary experience and expertise in handling garnishments as a potent collection tool for our clients. We help clients from large banks and other financial institutions to small businesses simply trying to reclaim their rightful property.

To learn more about the Florida garnishment statute and how wage garnishment works in our beautiful state, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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