One of the greatest concerns our clients face is wage garnishment, and they often ask if this is a threat or scare tactic or if debt collectors can actually garnish their wages. While debt collection agencies can take these steps to collect a portion of your paycheck, there are laws in place to protect you. To help you understand your options and the steps you can take, we are breaking down wage garnishment in Florida.
When an individual has missed multiple payments on a debt, the lender or creditor can file a suit against the individual. If the debtor does not attend court or offer any kind of payment arrangement or proof of financial hardship, the court can enter a judgment against them. This opens the door for the lender or creditor to garnish wages, meaning to keep a portion of your paycheck each pay period, until the debt is paid off.
A judgment must be entered to garnish wages to pay medical bills, credit card debt, old utilities, and personal loans. No judgment is needed to garnish wages to pay taxes, child support, or federally backed student loans.
According to Florida law, creditors can garnish:
Let’s look at an example of an income, after legally required deductions, of $600 per week. The amount greater than 30 times minimum wage means that $382.50 could be garnished while 25 percent of your disposable earnings would be $150 per week. Thus, the lesser amount would be 25 percent of your disposable income, so your paycheck could be garnished up to $150 per week.
If you receive a judgment and your workplace is required to begin garnishing your wages to pay a debt, you can either appeal the decision or file for bankruptcy. Let’s look at both options.
If you have dependents, you may be able to File a Claim of Exemption by claiming the head of household exemption. If you can claim head of household, or show that you pay at least half of the living expenses of a dependent, your income can’t be garnished if your weekly disposable income is less than $750 dollars.
You should also review the Writ of Garnishment to look for any procedural mistakes or, if possible, offer to settle the judgment if you have the funds to do so. However, you must work quickly as you only have 20 days to respond before your pay is garnished.
If your paycheck is already being garnished or you don’t meed the exemptions, filing for bankruptcy may be the right option. By filing for bankruptcy, all wage garnishment and attempts at collection must cease as your debts are accumulated and processed. If you are filing for Chapter 7, your debts may be discharged after eligible assets are used to settle with creditors, while Chapter 13 restructures your debt to allow you to make a payment that is dispersed to those to whom you owe money. After three to five years, eligible debt is discharged.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet due to wage garnishment or experiencing hardship due to debt, bankruptcy may be the right option to help you achieve financial freedom. Schedule a free consultation with Stiberman Law, an experienced bankruptcy law firm in Florida dedicated to helping our clients get out from under debt. Call us at (954) 922-2283 or fill out the form below to get started.
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