Garnishment is governed by both federal and state law. Federal wage garnishment law falls under Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. State laws vary, and Florida garnishment law is primarily covered in Chapter 77 of the Florida Code as well as the Florida Constitution.
Overall, Florida is one of the most debtor-friendly states in the United States.
It should be noted that when state and federal laws differ, the law that’s most beneficial to the garnishee (employee) should be followed.
Those who provide more than half of the support for a child or other dependent are exempt from having their wages garnished in Florida. This is commonly referred to as the “Head of Household" exemption. The only exception to this is if the person’s weekly wages are greater than $500, and the debtor agrees to the garnishment in writing.
To use this exemption, you must file an affidavit with the court and send it a copy to the creditor and their attorney (if they have one.) The creditor then has two days to file a challenge to the exemption. In addition, the jointly-owned property of a married couple, including bank accounts, is exempt from garnishment based on one of the party’s debts.
Florida garnishment law also allows debtors to protect up to $1,000 of their personal property from garnishment. This includes money that’s held in bank accounts as well as wages. Otherwise, federal garnishment limits apply, which limits the amount that can be garnished to 25% of the garnishee’s take-home pay (with a few exceptions, such as for garnishment related child support).
In most cases, before a wage garnishment can take effect, the creditor must obtain a court order for the garnishment (the Federal Government can bypass this.) A creditor does this by filing a lawsuit, and they have a limited amount of time to do so. How long this takes depends on the type of debt. The deadline (Statute of Limitations) for written contracts (which encompasses most types of debt) is 5 years. The creditor is also required to make a good faith effort to collect payment from the debtor before resorting to wage garnishment. However, after the “writ of judgment" is issued by the court, the creditor can pursue the debt for up to 20 years (or until it’s paid off.)
Once the judgment has been issued, Florida law doesn’t require the garnishee to be notified prior to the garnishment taking effect. However, the creditor is required to provide the employee who’s subject to the garnishment copies of the garnishment order along with a notice informing them of their rights in stopping the garnishment.
Questions regarding the garnishment procedure and garnishment questions should be handled by a qualified Florida attorney with experience in garnishment law.