Florida Wage Garnishment

Garnishment occurs when a creditor takes legal action to seize a portion of your wages, bank account, or other assets. In wage garnishment cases, the creditor will contact your employer and have your employer deduct a specified amount of money from your check each week to be forwarded to the creditor. Wage garnishments can be particularly devastating to debtors (borrowers) because the writ of garnishment is continuing. Therefore, a single writ of garnishment can continue to garnish wages until the full amount of the debt is paid. Fortunately, debtors in Florida do have many legal options to prevent or stop a wage garnishment. If you are threatened with a wage garnishment or your wages are already being garnished, contact a Florida wage garnishment attorney in the Tampa Bay area for help.

Most creditors will not be permitted to seek a wage garnishment until they have first obtained a judgment (court order) allowing them to collect the debt. However, unpaid income taxes, court ordered child support, and student loans are the exception to this rule, they will not be required to obtain a judgment prior to seeking garnishment. Creditors will have up to 20 years to collect the funds owed under a judgment. See Florida Statute 55.081. The statute of limitations to collect on a judgment is substantially longer than most other debts. The statute of limitations on most other debts is typically only 5 years. See Florida Statute 95.11.

Head of Household Exemption in Florida:
Under Florida Statute 222.11, if you qualify as a head of household you may be legally entitled to stop a wage garnishment. The head of a household is someone who pays at least 50% of the living expenses for a dependent. The term “dependent” in head of household cases is broad and can include many different types of situations, children are not the only type of dependent that will qualify under the law. For instance, dependent may include an aunt, uncle, parent, or even a former spouse receiving alimony. See Killian v. Lawson.

If the debtor can prove they qualify as a head of household and their net income is less than $750 per week, the wage garnishment will not be permitted. If the debtor’s net income exceeds $750, the creditor may be permitted to attach the garnishment to the amount that exceeds $750 per week. The debtor seeking head of household protection will have the burden of proving they qualify for the exemption.

It is important to note, the head of household exemption does not protect tax refunds from garnishment. Tax refunds are not considered wages, thus are not protected under the head of household statute.

Other Exemptions That Can Stop Garnishments:
Head of household is not the only exemption that can be used to stop a garnishment. For instance, exemptions to garnishments may also include: social security benefits, welfare, workers’ compensation, veterans’ benefits, pensions, life insurance benefits, and disability income benefits.

Alternatively, the debtor may be able to file a lawsuit to vacate the judgment. If the judgment is vacated, the previous court order granting the judgment to the creditor will be null and void. Whether or not vacating a judgment will be a successful option depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. If you think you may have legal grounds to vacate a judgment contact a wage garnishment lawyer for assistance.

Federal Protection From Garnishment:
Under Federal law 15 U.S.C. 1673, garnishments may not exceed 25% of a debtor’s disposable income. This protection applies to all debtors, not just those you qualify as head of household. This limit applies to the total amount of garnishments; thus, even if a debtor is facing multiple garnishments, the total garnishment may not exceed 25%. However, the garnishment may exceed 25% of the debtor’s disposable income if the disposable income exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wages per week. In these cases, the garnishment will be limited to the lesser of either 25% of the debtor’s disposable income or 30 times the federal minimum wages per week.

Procedure to Stop Wage Garnishments in Florida:
When a creditor seeks a garnishment, the clerk of court must send notice to the debtor regarding the garnishment. The notice must inform the debtor of the garnishment and the right to file an exemption. The debtor must file any exemptions to the garnishment within 20 days of receiving the notice. See Florida Statute 77.041. Additionally, the creditor must send the debtor notice of the garnishment. The notice must be sent first class mail within 5 business days of the writ of garnishment being issued.

If the debtor timely files a claim of exemption and request for a hearing, the creditor will 14 business days from the date they are served a copy of the exemption by mail to file a sworn written statement that answers the debtor’s claim of exemption. If the claim of exemption and request for hearing is hand delivered the creditor will only have 8 business to respond. If the creditor fails to timely respond to the debtor’s claim of exemption the court will automatically cancel the garnishment. A court a hearing will not be necessary to dismiss the garnishment.

Contact a Florida Wage Garnishment Attorney:
If you are threatened with a wage garnishment or your wages are already being garnished contact Florida Law Advisers to schedule a consultation with a Florida Wage Garnishment Attorney. Our initial consultation is free and we offer flexible payment options. At Florida Law Advisers, we take an aggressive approach to stopping wage garnishments. We understand how devastating wage garnishments can be to a family, and we vigorously fight to defend our client’s rights. Call us today to speak with a wage garnishment lawyer, we are available to answer your calls 24/7.

enforcement of child support

When a court order to pay spousal or child support is violated it can have devastating effects. Often, a parent or former spouse will depend on the funds each month to make ends meet. Fortunately, Florida family law provides many different tools for child support enforcement. If you are not receiving child support or alimony a court awarded you contact a family law attorney for assistance. A family law firm in Tampa may be able to assist you by petitioning a court to employ one of the options for enforcement of child support or alimony listed below.

Wage Garnishment

Under Florida child support law, a court is authorized to garnish wages as a method of enforcement of child support. A wage garnishment automatically deducts the funds you are entitled to receive from the payor’s paycheck. The court can require the enforcement of child support by garnishment to occur on a periodic basis and continue for as long as the court deems necessary. Further, orders for child support are not susceptible to the head of household defense to garnishments. See Waddell v. Schwarz.

Suspended Driver’s License

Failure to pay support or alimony can result in a driver’s license suspension as enforcement of child support or alimony. See Florida family law 61.13016. Additionally, under Florida Statute 61.13015, the payor’s professional license can be suspended as a form of enforcement of child support. However, a court can deny the license suspension petition if it would result in irreparable harm to the payor and not help accomplish the objective of collecting payment. Additionally, the court may refuse to suspend a license if the payor demonstrates a good faith effort to make payments.

Enforcement of Child Support by Civil or Criminal Contempt

Failure to comply with a court order of support can be enforced by either civil or criminal contempt. However, civil contempt is used much more frequently than criminal contempt. In order to convict a person of criminal contempt, the evidence must prove the defendant has the ability to pay and the failure to pay is willful and intentional. See Bowen v. Bowen. Further, since it is a criminal action, the prosecution must be in compliance with Rule 3.840 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. If convicted of criminal contempt for failure to pay court ordered alimony the incarceration must not exceed 180 days. The incarceration is designed to encourage payment of the funds that are due, rather than retributive. Therefore, often a court will purge the contempt if a specified amount is paid by the defendant.

On the other hand, the burden for obtaining civil contempt as a means of enforcement of child support only requires proof that there is a prior court order directing the defendant to pay alimony, and the defendant has failed to pay according to the terms of the court order. However, a defendant can defeat a civil contempt action by demonstrating that due to circumstances beyond his/ her control he/ she no longer has the ability to tender the payments required by the court order. For this defense to apply, the defendant must prove the failure to pay is unintentional. Further, the defendant must also prove the failure to pay is due to an intervening circumstance not contemplated at the time the original order requiring support was entered.

Garnishment of Tax Returns

If a party does not adhere to a court order to pay child support their federal income tax dependent exemption may be allocated to the other parent. See Florida Statute 61.30. Further, the court can order the exemption to be allocated to the payee either on a permanent or rotating basis. The dependent tax exemption can be a substantial amount of money. Therefore, in some cases this can be a significant penalty for failure to comply with a child support order.

Defenses to Enforcement of Child Support or Alimony Orders

The payor may have legal defenses which will prevent a Florida family law court from taking enforcement action. Defenses to payment include but are not limited to: laches, the child has reached the age of majority, and a present inability to pay the amount owed. There may be other defenses available as well. For advice on a particular case or circumstance contact a family law attorney in Tampa for advice.

Tampa Family Law Firm

A skilled family law attorney in Tampa can make a big difference in enforcement of child support or alimony. If you are seeking enforcement of an alimony or child support order, or trying to prevent contempt for failure to pay contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. to speak with a family law attorney in Tampa, Florida. The family law attorneys at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. have years of experience in both advocating for and against enforcement of alimony and child support orders. With years of experience in family law litigation, we are more than ready to stand firm for what is fair. If you would like to speak with a divorce lawyer at our firm call us today at 800 990 7763.