WRITS OF GARNISHMENT
Writs of garnishment allow judgment creditors access to assets that belong to a debtor, but is possessed or controlled by a third party, ordinarily financial institutions. Garnishment in Florida is a creature of statute and is unknown at common law. Governed by Florida Statute §77, garnishments in Florida are a trap for the unseasoned collections attorney or pro se creditor. Fraught with draconian deadlines, Florida Statute §77 should be approached with extreme caution. Failure to abide by the strict dictates of the statute will result in the likely dissolution of the garnishment. In the event significant funds have been frozen of the judgment debtor by the garnishee bank, this could spell trouble for the judgment creditor (and a call to the malpractice insurance carrier for the creditor’s attorney). Because writs of garnishment most often involve the freezing of a debtor’s bank account, and money is so very fungible, it is absolutely imperative that a collections attorney is seasoned in this field before undertaking representation of a client in a garnishment. This goes for both the creditor and debtor’s counsel. In the event a mistake is made, the damage is often times already done; money has been absconded with or transferred to a remote jurisdiction, making further collections futile.
For example, under Florida Statute §77.041, the judgment creditor must send via first class United States mail notice of the writ to the judgment debtor within three days of the service of the writ of garnishment, or five days after issuance, whichever is later. The notice must include a copy of the writ of garnishment, the motion for writ of garnishment, and for individual judgment debtors a claim of exemption form. Failure to timely comply with the dictates of the statute will result in the writ being dissolved. And because garnishments in Florida are governed by statute, a trial court judge does not have the discretion to give leeway to a judgment creditor who errs this (or any other deadline) under the garnishment statute.
More deadlines loom under Florida Statute §77 than just the initial notice to the debtor, including notice to the debtor after the garnishee files an answer to the writ of garnishment, and deadlines to file a rebuttal when a debtor files a claim of exemption. These deadlines are buried in the statute and must be fully complied with to avoid the writ of garnishment being dissolved.
DEBT COLLECTIONS ATTORNEY
At the Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L., our debt collection attorneys well versed in the use of garnishments as potential collection tools and can be a valuable resource for the inexperienced collections attorney or pro se creditor. Please contact our office today for more information on writs of garnishment and the pursuance of cases regarding garnished wages or other assets.