Wage garnishment is a legal process in which a creditor can obtain a court order to take a portion of an employee’s wages to repay a debt. This process can be stressful and overwhelming for employees, which is why it’s important to understand the wage garnishment laws in Florida. In this blog, we’ll provide an overview of Florida’s wage garnishment laws, including the process, exemptions, and what types of debts can be garnished.
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.
In Florida, creditors can obtain a court order to garnish wages if the employee owes unpaid taxes, child support, or student loans, among other types of debts. The creditor must file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against the employee before they can initiate the wage garnishment process to collect on 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.
Once the judgment is obtained, the creditor can file a writ of garnishment with the court, which allows them to start garnishing the employee’s wages.
The amount that can be garnished from an employee’s wages in Florida is generally limited to 25 percent of your weekly earnings after legally required deductions (including federal, state, and local taxes), or the amount by which their disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. “Disposable earnings” refers to the amount of an employee’s paycheck that remains after legally required deductions such as taxes, social security, and health insurance.
If an employee’s disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour, the amount that can be garnished from their wages is limited to the lesser of 25% of their disposable earnings or the amount by which their disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage. For example, if an employee’s disposable earnings are $500 per week, which is greater than 30 times the minimum wage of $7.25, the lesser amount that can be garnished is 25% of their disposable earnings, which would be $125 per week.
Not all types of income and property are subject to wage garnishment in Florida. The state has certain exemptions that protect certain types of income from being garnished, including:
It’s important to note that these exemptions may not apply to all types of debt. For example, child support can be garnished from Social Security benefits in some cases.
In addition to unpaid taxes, child support, and student loans, other types of debts that can be subject to wage garnishment in Florida include:
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 meet the exemptions, filing for bankruptcy may be the right option. It is important to understand bankruptcy garnishment rules. 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.
Wage garnishment can be a stressful and overwhelming process for employees in Florida. It’s important to understand the wage garnishment laws in Florida to protect your income and assets from being seized by creditors. Remember that certain types of income and property are exempt from wage garnishment, and that creditors must follow the proper legal procedures before initiating the garnishment process. If you’re facing wage garnishment or have questions about Florida’s wage garnishment laws, it’s always best to seek the advice of a qualified wage garnishment attorney.
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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